Writing under the influence

Hemingway, Thoreau, Emerson, Twain, and Melville are just a few of the writers who have NOT influenced me. I would never insult them like that.

I’m not sure whether it sounds more conceited to say writers like these have influenced you or that no one has influenced you – as if you are doing things with words that no one has ever done before (you trailblazer, you). If someone asked me who my influences were – and no one ever has because I’m not that successful – I would list the following, for better or worse, as my influences:

1) Some dude that wrote about paddling a canoe down the river that runs through his backyard with his son for National Geographic Adventure. The story taught me that adventure is a state of mind that can occur anywhere at anytime.

2) My fear of punctuation leads to a fair amount of short sentences. Sure, I could reference Hemingway here, but I’ve only read a few of his books (I don’t remember which ones) and I just spelled his name with two M’s, so I’ll stick with fear. Hyphens, colons, semi-colons, I think I know when and where to use them, but I often opt for a period and new sentence out of fear.

3) Spelling Bees. I’m a three time Mississinawa Valley Middle School Spelling Bee champion. Not that my vocabulary is great by any means, but it would be worse if I hadn’t learned all of the darned words on those dreadful lists.

4) Rick Reilly. Finally, an actual person. Rick Reilly used to write for Sports Illustrated, and I read his column The Life of Reilly religiously during the time I was developing my travel column. His stories always had a beginning, middle, and an end, and he often poignantly tied the beginning to the end. Plus, everything he wrote had a point without being preachy or superior. I don’t get Sports Illustrated anymore, but I was at the dentist yesterday and I was horrified to flip to the last page of the magazine and there was no Rick. Apparently, he has moved to ESPN and will write for the magazine in addition to some TV work, starting in June. Of all the things on this list, Rick’s column in SI influenced me the most.

So, my influences are some dude, fear, spelling bees, and a sport’s journalist. I’m sure there are probably other things and people that should get some of the credit/blame for my writing style, but more likely than not, they aren’t pillars of the literary world.

They aren’t impressive. But they’re mine.

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