Wednesday, October 22, 2008


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?


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.

Anonymous 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.