As some of you will know, I’m currently doing a copywriting internship; no, it isn’t what I want to do with my life, but it is interesting seeing just how little some people care about their lives that there are willing to waste them away writing such drivel (admittedly, if they offered me a job I wouldn’t turn it down, the things I want to write are the things that nobody wants to read, though whether that is my own failure as a writer rather than the style I choose to take is another matter, but either way it is not the kind of thing I will be able to earn a living from) but I finally confided into the other copywriter that I wrote fiction.

She asked me what my influences were and I froze; I knew who I wanted to say, but I felt guilty saying them out load, answering her with a vague ‘Y’know, the usual’ rather than ploughing into the dedicated list of writer’s whose work I have read and has stuck with me.
What right do I have to say that anyone has influenced me? What right do I have to place that burden, however weak a burden it might be, on another person’s shoulders, living or dead? These writers that I come close to idolising the work of don’t deserve to be saddled with my writing as another mark against their name in the grand creative scheme of things.

And, of course, whenever I do go to list the names of those whom have influenced me, I often think that it is arrogant to list them; as though I was claiming that my work was equal to, or somehow surpassed those I have read before. I don’t believe that; I don’t even think that I imitate the styles of those whom I adore, but it remains there as an unspoken thought.

2014-11-19 17.39.49
The wonderful view from my office’s window; this was taken a few minutes before the so-called ‘Weather bomb’ hit, which translated to nothing more than a few strong winds and some stinging rain. An urban wasteland is one of the main ways I describe Wigan, but occasionally I cannot deny there is something about the place. Maybe it’s just because it’s my home town, but I sometimes struggle not to revile it as much as I do.

If I say I have been influenced by certain writers, does that not also had an air of pretension to me, particularly if I list famously incredible works of art, or obscure literary fiction, or writers who grazed against the boundaries of philosophy even whilst they finished their fiction?

In a previous post I raised the possibility of being an elitist, and I think I am, but I am still so low a creature that I cannot even hope to contend with the shadows or the very worst works of those I idolise.

I am a hypocrite and a coward and, yet, I still boast a higher opinion of myself than those I hold for most people I see on a daily basis. Whether this is my literary-ness, my elitism or my insecurities playing a cruel trick on my mentality, the fact remains that I am embarrassed, and guilt-ridden, to say that I have been influenced by anyone.

Am I alone in this? Do you ever feel guilty saying that you have taken meaning from someone else’s work, or that their style has stuck with you and seeps through in your own writing, even though you know it cannot possibly compare to those you idolise?

One thought on “Are We Too Guilty To Talk Of Our Influences?

  1. I feel like any answer can provoke a little embarrassment – if you list someone very famous, you feel unoriginal and general, not to mention hubristic and pretentious, if you list someone commercial you’ll feel silly and frivolous, and if you list someone more obscure then you feel like a try-hard hipster. The best answer is just to be honest and enthusiastic about whatever your influences truly are, and I think people will pick up on your sincerity. Or just pick one from each category and hope their negatives cancel each other out!

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