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Inspiration for Writers: Get Turned On

I don’t know about you, but awesome books turn me on. No, not in that way (OK, maybe sometimes). What I mean is awesome books get me excited to get back to the page — my pages — and start writing.

I have two distinct memories from my adolescence when I learned this lesson. The first time, I was in grammar school, probably third or fourth grade (but it could have been later). I’d just read Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Veldt.” It was unlike any short story that I’d read before, and it made me want to write short stories that took people’s breath away and kept them on the edge of their seats.

The second time was in high school. I’d just read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale for AP English during my senior year of high school (hello, 1991!). I immediately fell in love with Atwood’s style and story as my classmates and I tried to figure out what was going on in this crazy world she’d created. I enjoyed the book so much that it felt wrong, somehow, that we were reading it for English class.

What a commentary, huh? I’m all for reading the classics, but I think that there should be a balance between pieces from the cannon and pieces from today. I certainly didn’t appreciate all the cannon fodder back when I was
sixteen and seventeen, but I loved reading stories with plots that felt relevant to me. My sense is that English classes today, at least the classes I hear about around here in the Northeast, are finding the right balance, which is a good thing. Not to mention the explosion of awesome young adult fiction that’s out there.

But back to my point regarding inspiration for writers: if you need some, go find a book that you can get lost in. And don’t give up if the first (or second or third) book you pick up doesn’t do it for you. Keep trying until you find that story — that author — who gets you so excited about stories that you can’t WAIT to get back to your pages. (And this is true of great TV and film. There’s SO much good TV out there, and we writers can learn a lot and get inspired by these stories as well.)

What are some books that have inspired you along the way?