Reading Inspires Writing

My book plan, my characters, the ethos of the book it is all ready, but with my first serious attempt at fiction writing about to get underway I got cold feet. I am just a teensy bit afraid of failure; so instead of going forth with confident step I found myself shuffling from one foot to the other, glancing around nervously. To calm my nerves I picked up a book and started to read.

My choice of book was Jean Anouilh's Antigone, not your standard fare by any means but a necessary piece of reading for my forthcoming Masters. As I read, and compared it to the Sophocles version, I relaxed and inspiration followed. I read Antigone's speech about how she only wanted to live and be married if her fiancé continued to love her the way he did then. I recognised the emotions she described. I studied the language more closely. This was not highfalutin language designed to demonstrate the author's grasp of poly-syllabic words, it was plain language which put across the desired feelings in a way which would grab the reader (or audience as this is the text for a play). In short, it was everyday language. I was reassured, beautiful literature does not need to be difficult langauge.

I read on. Antigone's fiancé, Haemon, spoke about quarrels and happiness, and inspiration hit again. I heard one of my characters referring to Haemon's speech in an internal dialogue. It would work. My character is an artist, he is cultured, it would not be out of character for him to refer to literary works when conversing with himself. I scribbled the speech down in the back of the book - I did not have time to go in search of my notebook, the speech was fully and perfectly formed, it needed to be recorded immediately. And so, with a book in my hand I had become inspired and found the confidence to write.

I truly believe that a good or brilliant writer can only be born from a prolific reader. It is from reading that a writer can hone their art, learn the skills necessary to evoke the right sort of emotion in the right place and successfully convey meaning to the reader. When reading a writer absorbs, whether consciously or not, nuances of language and technique and can use them in their own works. I read voraciously, I only hope I have learned enough to make my writing good; though I shall strive for brilliance.

Young Woman Reading by Mary Cassatt. 1876


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