The (In)Courage writing group that I am a part of has been discussing Annie Dillard’s book, The Writing Life. This week we focus on chapter five. I love this chapter. This is where she discusses the influence of what the writer reads upon their output. I have long felt that it must be true. In my life when I read a lot of poetry. Much poetry pours out into my consciousness. Annie Dillard claims it goes deeper. I think she may be right. Who we become is in part shaped by what we read in quantity. The books I loved and read over and over as a child helped to shape my ideas of the world. Our voice as writers is doubtlessly influenced to some extent by our worldview and the writers we read the most.
As Christians, The Holy Bible becomes the seminal influence in our lives, shaping every aspect of ourselves. Spending time in The Word daily is critical to me. I want the Holy Spirit to be the dominant voice in my life, but I guess Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, John Keats, William Wordsworth, JRR Tolkien, Leo Tolstoy, Ann Voskamp, and yes, Lucy Maud Montgomery have all helped to influence my creative voice.
I think one of the factors that influences our fondness for a book is if they speak “our voice.” It isn’t enough that they write in English. L.M. Montgomery calls them “kindred spirits.” Some authors are just that. You stumble upon their work and somehow it speaks right to your heart; a play of words that arrests you; a poem that makes you feel more deeply alive. They see the world in a way that makes sense to you across miles, centuries, wild imaginings. These authors lead, and you are compelled to follow because you need to know where the story goes.
This week I have been reminded on numerous occasions of a poem I wrote quite a few years ago. I attached to this post with some trepidation. It is old. My sister said it lacked maturity. I’m hesitant to share my poetry because my style is not in fashion. Forgive me, dear reader if it falls flat, but it sums up what has been on my mind all week. “Vicariously, I lived on through the greatest books the world ever knew.”
Somewhere between the covers of a book
Lies my life when I recall.
It seems I dwelt in paper ink, and all.
Somehow I lived in history
And literature and poetry.
And although no one has written a biography,
My life, it seems, has become a story.
The novel novel of my days
Spent freely though I lacked the ways
Life and money are generally used.
No, I have just meandered along
Never worrying about the throng.
Neither cared I whether my means
Could support all my dreams.
Dreaming them brought it’s own wealth,
Of a sort, and now I have quite a shelf,
A lovely leather bound library
And a volume of poetry
Composed by me.
And this I see when gazing back.
This, and not the common things I lacked.
So if you ask me where I’ve been,
In honesty, I’d have to say
That I have lived a book today.
And all my yesterday’s were such
That I have learned so very much.
Vicariously I lived on through
The greatest books the world ever knew.