Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Permeability

As a writer, I am extremely permeable. Sometimes this is good. Sometimes it's bad. Mostly, it just is.

What do I mean by permeability?

Whenever I read something and like it, I find myself wanting to create it. Not exactly the same thing, of course, but something like it. It's not that I loose my writing voice altogether, it's more that my voice adapts to whatever it is I just read, flowing into its patterns.

Sometimes it's kind of fun. A while ago, for example, I decided that I wanted to write a modern fantasy noir. I was having trouble getting it right until I picked up Brooklyn Noir and D.C. Noir, both brilliant collections, by the way. Whenever I wasn't writing, I was reading, soaking in that dark, smoky noir. I didn't have to take notes or make any conscious decisions about how to adapt what I was reading to what I was writing, but it worked. What came out was something I'm really proud of - I might post it later.

Sometimes, though, it's aggravating. When what I'm reading and what I'm writing don't match up it takes a lot of discipline to stay focused. It's not that I loose my voice and can't keep going, it's more like I find myself caring less. New ideas play at the edge of my writerly consciousness, tempting me with their awesomeness, and their newness.

The trouble is, I refuse to always and only read whatever it is I'm writing, and I'm not the kind of guy who can go very long without a book I'm reading (I think a week or two is the longest). Sometimes when I'm still in the midst of writing a fantasy novel I want to read some modern fantasy/horror. Sometimes when I'm working on a contract for White Wolf I want to read some fluffy young adult fantasy. God alone knows what I'll do when the time comes to work on my steampunk story. Read Jane Austen?

I haven't got a simple answer for this, other than discipline, discipline, discipline. The more I write, the more I make writing a practice, not a passtime, the better I will be able to resist the siren call of a new idea until I am good and done with the one I'm working on.

And of course, discipline is good for something else. It takes discipline (and confidence) to simply be who I am as a writer and not worry about the 'rightness' or 'wrongness' of it. I'm permeable. I write on trains. It is what it is and I am who I am.

* * *

  • Are you permeable, too? Please tell me I'm not the only one. It's easier to be a mutant freak if you have a team of mutant freaks to run around in tight blue and yellow costumes with.
  • If you are, what have you done to deal with this condition? And if you're not, what do you think contributes to your immunity?
  • What particular hilarious situations have arisen from your permeability or lack thereof?

3 comments:

Abby said...

I've told you about my bad fanfic problem, right? I'm less permeable around subjects, and more permeable about writing style. I can't read anything poorly written, even for fun, right before I have to write something important because despite an English major, and knowing better, I will pick up the crappy stylistic errors.

Mark said...

Huh, I don't recall, but maybe you did.

At least that isn't a problem for me. Maybe I should adapt that from "extremely permeable" to "very permeable."

Unless I do pick up more style than I think. You'll have to let me know when you read AKotL or RaS.

Abby said...

Could we go with "differently permeable"? I don't pick up subjects as much as you do, just style. Though subjects do creep in, given enough time.

This can also be useful, honestly. I mean, good writers give me neat stylistic quirks that sometimes stick.

And are you positive that you don't do it? I didn't notice until I developed my fanfic habit, which was the most extreme manifestation, then realized that I had been doing it other times without noticing.