Words and Music (CSFF Favorites, Day 2)

I stand behind a table laden with my books and talk to passers-by about my work, and as they stop and handle ink and paper and converse, they ask, “Where did you get your ideas? What led you to become a writer?”

I smile — such a simple question, such a not-simple answer. I was born a writer, I think. I tell them, “I’ve always told stories in my head. Eventually I just started putting them on paper.” Sometimes I look around and wonder if all these people, drifting by as families and couples and individuals, see stories everywhere like I do. If they get distracted from real life by imaginary creatures and possibilities and atmospheres. If we’re all storytellers and it’s just that some of us share and some of us don’t.

I don’t know — I think it’s possible that many people DON’T live in their heads like I do. But I wasn’t just born a writer, I realize. I was raised one, raised by the words and the music and the imaginations of others.

Like so many of the bloggers on this tour, my imagination was shaped by writers like J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings), A.A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh), Astrid Lindgren (Pippi Longstocking) and C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia). George MacDonald was influential too (The Princess and Curdie; Lilith), and Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time), and to a great degree Lloyd Alexander (The Book of Three; Westmark; The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha). And not just because they wrote about fantastic worlds and talking creatures and magical events. Their very words shaped me. The way they used words, sentences, rhythms — prose and poetry — taught me how to write. They taught me that words mean things. That words make magic. In later years, other writers taught me. Stephen Lawhead, Guy Gavriel Kay, Jeff Overstreet, Bryan Polivka, Annie Dillard, Ray Bradbury, and a whole slew of 19th-century poets, especially Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

I was also raised by music and the stories it tells. (That probably has something to do with why I direct a dance company now!) My dad had thousands of vinyl records in his collection, of every genre and style. These days I still turn to music to tell me stories and to help me write mine. And just as fantasy is a bit off the mainstream when it comes to writing, so I like music that fuses styles and explores cultures and isn’t exactly Top 40. I listen to E.S. Posthumus, Kate Rusby, Deep Forest, AO, and Jeff Johnson; to Enigma, Era, Muse, and Coldplay (OK, there’s a little Top 40 in there); to Karan Casey and Velile and Alela Diane and Josh Garrells and innumerable movie soundtracks.

When you read the Seventh World books, you are reading my work. But you’re listening to echoes of the words and music and stories of others. In some way, we’re all making up one big tapestry of literature and art, influencing and inspiring and being influenced and inspired. And behind all that is reality, the real reality of spirit and creation and the God who is really there, and that underlying presence is bringing us up as writers and artists just as surely as any other.

Who are some of your inspirations?







5 responses to “Words and Music (CSFF Favorites, Day 2)”

  1. another Elisabeth Avatar

    Oh, you live inside your head too?


  2. […] Joyner ? ? ? John W. Otte ? ? ? Sarah Sawyer ? ? ? ? Chawna Schroeder ? ? ? ? Rachel Starr Thomson ? ? ? Steve Trower ? ? ? Fred […]

  3. […] ? ? Donita K. Paul ? ? ? Sarah Sawyer ? Chawna Schroeder ? Speculative Faith ? ? ? ? Rachel Starr Thomson ? ? ? Steve Trower ? ? ? Fred Warren ? Dona Watson […]

  4. Sarah Sawyer Avatar

    Like you, as early as I can remember I told stories to myself and writing flowed naturally from these internal worlds. I can’t really pin down one specific author that inspired me to write, rather it was my own imagination/storytelling and the many authors I read during childhood and the years thereafter that instilled in me a love of the written form of storytelling. So many of the authors you’ve listed I’ve enjoyed as well, and I have to agree that above all else, God provides the inspiration and creativity in writing. I view writing as a partnership with Him!

  5. Elisabeth Avatar

    C. S. Lewis was my one of my inspirations to write. I remember thinking after reading one of his Chronicles, “I want to write stories just like that!” (I was 8 or 9 years old at the time.) My other main writing inspirations are my parents. 🙂 They gave me a love of reading, and they encouraged my imagination greatly, and they listened when I told them the stories I’d been making up.
    I loved reading this post, and I love the poetic imagery (“one big tapestry of literature and art…”) at the end! 🙂

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