A Question For Writers
I've noticed, now that I'm working on a third novel, that something that happens each time I'm writing a novel is I find myself reading or watching or listening to very particular kinds of books or movies or music. When I was writing One for Sorrow, I gravitated to watching a lot of alienated smart kid rebel coming of age films, and read a lot of voice-oriented novels. When I was writing The Love We Share Without Knowing, I was reading a lot of novels by Japanese authors, and Japanese poetry and manga as well, and listening to both contemporary and traditional Japanese music, and watching a lot of contemporary Japanese film including tons of anime, along with books written by expatriate authors. I also was reading a lot of Japanese mythology and Buddhist thought. Now that I'm writing this third novel, which I'm tentatively calling, Yesterday's Child, I find myself reading a lot of philosophy and watching a lot of political documentaries. The fiction I'm reading also tends, like the books I read while writing One for Sorrow, to be voice-oriented and wide-reaching, all-encompassing narrative voices, the sort that widen and expand then narrow to ribbons like the course of a river. The philosopher whose work I'm most caught up with at the moment is Hannah Arendt. I've read "Between Past and Future", and "The Human Condition" and am now beginning, "The Life of the Mind". I can't get enough of her ideas as well as the way she expresses them in language almost like a poet most of the time. There's a sort of mathematical or musical precision to the way she guides a reader's mind through her narrative thought experiments that almost convinces you in and of itself that whatever she says is the truth. Her mind is seething, bubbling like a cauldron with life. It's so invigorating to read work of this nature that tells a story of the life of what it means to be human in a language that is neither fiction nor poetry, math nor scientific formula. At this juncture of my life, philosophical texts seem to go straight to my gut, which they haven't always done in the past to be honest. I wonder sometimes what it means when suddenly a particular form of writing becomes a direction to walk in for learning and growing in some way. What does it signify when particular kinds of engagements with language and thought shift to a different code, like from fiction to poetry, or poetry to algebra, or chaos theory to essay, or from journalism to philosophy, etc.? Isn't what we're most receptive to as a mode of communication and narrative engagement at any given time indicative or something about us at that moment? Maybe I'm overthinking things, but I'd rather overthink than underthink, so I'm not going to feel bad if that's the case.
Anyway, my main question for those of you who write: Do you find yourself reading/watching/listening to any particular kinds of media while writing a book? What sorts of things? Any ideas why? Answers both public in this blog or private in an email to me are welcome. I'm interested to know more about this question from those of you who are out there reading the words I'm putting down in this space.