I read a lot, but there are two writers that I have to pay homage to for teaching me one of the most valuable lessons in being a writer, use your own voice. This is exactly what David Sedaris and Barbara Comys did for me, and this is all about how they inspired me with their style, wit, and candour; you never know, they might do the same for you.
Style, both of my inspirations write in the way that someone might speak, not in tangles and high falutin language, which has it’s place of course, but in the every-day accessible. But, using those familiar words in such a way that they sing, and carry you along, yep I’m that enthusiastic. You only have to listen to David Sedaris read a story once to forever hear him reading his stories to you, and that’s serious skill. You know you are getting the authentic David, it’s him through and through, he makes it easy to imagine what it would be like hang out with him, to listen to him discussing a television programme, a shopping list, housework. That’s something I aspired to from the first moment I read his work. My first Barbara Comys book was ‘Sisters by a river’, how I love that book, it wasn’t written in any classic style, more as a collection of anecdotes, which is exactly how my own brain tends to work. I totally bought into book, it was only much, much later I found out it was a novel with autobiographical undertones. So, if you have ever seen me say it was a autobiography there you go, I was sort of wrong, but that’s the power of the book. Barbara writes the extremely dark with such a light touch you can chose not to see it. If you have never read her work, as soon as you finish this blog get yourself a copy, you won’t regret it.
Wit, you only have to see David Sedaris book titles ‘Dress your family in corduroy and denim’, ‘Let’s explore diabetes with owls’, ‘me talk pretty one day’, ‘Squirrel seeks chipmunk’, to name just a few, to know that you are in for a comedic treat. What I particularly like is that the title doesn’t necessarily tell you everything, or anything about what the book is actually about, love that. And yes, that did inspire me when naming Down with frogs. Once you get into the books you have such comments as “I hate you’ she said to me one afternoon. ‘I really, really hate you.’ Call me sensitive, but I couldn’t help but take it personally.” David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and “Boys who spent their weekends making banana nut muffins did not, as a rule, excel in the art of hand-to-hand combat.” David Sedaris, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. See simple but highly effective. Barbara can be a bit more edgy with her humour, but it’s female, and it works ‘I had a kind of idea if you controlled your mind and said “I won’t have any babies” very hard, they most likely wouldn’t come. I thought that was what was meant by birth-control’ Barbara Comys, Our Spoons Came From Woolworths. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Our-Spoons-Came-Woolworths-Classics/dp/1844089274
Candour, now this is a tricky one, you want to hold something of yourself back, and that’s fine, but not only do people respond to someone putting it all out there, if you write without putting your heart into it, it shows; and it just doesn’t work. It might appeal to some, but something about it won’t ‘feel’ right, especially if you write about a subject you haven’t lived without really researching it. This isn’t about detail for the sake of it, when I say candour, I am talking about truthfulness, sincerity and integrity. David and Barbara have this is bucket loads, both write about their own families to a degree, David family really cannot have any secrets left, having been written about in all their wonderful, monstrous and endearing beauty. And if you want to know what it’s like going for a colonoscopy read Calypso. Barbara on the other hand used her family and husband(s) as inspiration, using the difficult and traumatic from her life to give her characters life, and an emotional connection to the reader.
The message I hope you to takeaway from this, is that other authors are not your competition, your measuring stick, or a reason not to write. They can be your inspiration, and your teachers. All good writers read, so renew your library ticket, visit your local bookshop, or get online, and get yourself something to read often, and from a wide range of genre’s. Let me know what you have been reading and if you have been inspired. Don’t forget Who Wednesday’s on my Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin for about the characters you have read about.
TTFN Eden :-)