Writing Memoir

Ode to influences

It seems appropriate to follow my first Wordless Wednesday post with the important influences of my life. I had originally shelved this post, thinking of archiving it in my scribbles folder but now I think the time is right to post it.

Two of my fellow Thailand bloggers wrote about books that have influenced them or books that they recommended. This got me thinking about what books have influenced me and my writing.

Paul said: Hi Lani, I do hope you produce this list soon and I’ll look forward to it. I can tell from the way you write that you must have some interesting influences along the way – unless of course you are blessed with all natural talent.*

*Paul was in no way paid to endorse my awesomeness.

Yeah you could say I’ve had some interesting influences.

My father’s death while we were vacationing in Thailand when I was 6 years old, my mother in her English as a Second Language and metaphoric allegory talk, Hawaii- its beauty and people, the unbridled sophistication of the 80s, D&D, cable television, lack of adult supervision (see cable television), mom’s military boyfriends, Grandma Jean’s Christian Crusade, high school theatre and Thailand.

Death does intriguing things to a child, to a mother and to a family. As does Travel during formative years. My dad’s death dragged out the curiosity in me. I was a Nancy Drew and I didn’t even know it.

When a friend of mine asked who was my favorite author I said, “ Agatha Christie.” She was visibly disappointed, “Really? But she’s so formula!” It was my turn then to say Really? I never figured her mysteries out.

I guess I’m not very literary. Perhaps I lack good taste (see the 80s) but my life has been a mystery to solve, from trying to figure out who my father was to my firing at a job I dearly loved. I’m attracted to the flame.

Dealing with death at a young age also made me think A LOT about death and dying, religion and spirituality. So I’m attracted to those self-improvement or self-help type books. If I had to pen my life’s mission statement it would be: Be the best person you can be.

Now I know the US Army already took it years ago but honestly that is how I feel. And while we are at it, if my life were a book title it would be: Teach Yourself Levitation. Yeah, I know, I’m weird. What can I say? I can’t get enough of these types of books. I have a faulty memory and need to be constantly reminded not to act like a dickhead.

In college my friend Sara gave me a book on tape called: A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson. I listened to it probably more often than I cleaned my bed sheets (see lack of adult supervision). After this I read:

Care of the Soul – Thomas Moore
Illuminata: A Return to Prayer – Marianne Williamson
The Four Agreements – Miguel Ruiz
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
Living Juicy – Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy

It seems natural then for me to read to learn. (historical fiction is fun!) I take notes. I write down words or phrases that I find interesting and when I get super inspired I close the book and start writing myself.

It’s important for me to be constantly improving so I like to read books on writing. Not only does it help me read about the craft of writing in a new font, I love hearing about how authors got started, what influenced them and why they write. It’s like picking up a guy at a bar – it’s empowering, informative and assuredly will lead to a good story.

On Writing Well – William Zinsser
This Year You Write Your Novel – Walter Mosley
On Writing – Stephen King

Although I know I have a long way to go. I know I need to write even more than I do. I haven’t gone on one of those meditation retreats yet because you can’t listen to music, or read or write. I know it’s spiritually cleansing and all that karma karma, but not reading or writing would be like being in hell.

Speaking of hell, I should tell you how I got into reading in the first place! The Reader’s Digest version is this: Hawaii teenager is forcibly moved from Paradise at the tenderizing age of 12 and thrown into Damnation aka the middle of the Mojave Desert aka Barstow California. Extreme boredom ensues as tumbleweeds skip by (seriously), so reading (and writing) begins.

A sampling of the series of series I read over and over again during these desert storm years: Sweet Valley High, Sunfire, Couples, Cheerleaders, Sugar and Spice, Seniors, Sweet Dreams, Nancy Drew and Dragonlance.

Now I know my bubblegum teenage readers were not exactly of the James Joyce caliber. But the thing about young adult is, the reading is clean, relatable and fraught with lessons in ethics and morals. I’m also reminded that the Silent Generation were the ones who wrote these books.

Oi! If I don’t stop myself this could be a very long post. In fact I’ve already edited some stuff out because I want to go on a tangent about what other factors have influenced me. But over the recent years these are books that have had the most effect on moi:

Simple Abundance – Sarah Breathnach
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life
– Jon Kabat-Zinn
Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
Everything and anything by Dr. Wayne Dyer
Poemcrazy – Susan Wooldridge
Women Who Run With the Wolves – Clarisa Pinkola Estes
The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle

So here’s to the paperback novel, poems (!), the dusty smell of old books, the blog, the big books and the little thin ones that fit into small purses. love, lani

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8 thoughts on “Ode to influences

  1. Hi Lani, you have some great books listed there. I didn't have to deal with a death in my early years, but I was always attracted to books on spirituality. One of my first favourite of this kind of book was 'The Way of the Peaceful Warrior' series. Before hitting my teens I enjoyed Enid Blyton stuff like the Famous Five and the Secret Seven – that woman produced over 800 books!By the way, in this post you almost said my least favourite phrase, 'tender age' – I don't know why but those far too frequently spoken words bug the brown stuff out of me :-)You mentioned a few books that I’ve never heard of previous so I’ll need to check those out. I’m impressed that you mentioned Jon Kabatt-Zinn.

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  2. Hey Paul! Yes, I specifically chose the word “tenderized” as opposed to tender. I, too, hate the use of cliques which is why I try to put a spin on the obvious ones. But perhaps I shaved too close for your liking :PYeah, I really enjoyed Jon Kabatt-Zinn's book and I remember re-reading it. I've never heard of Enid so I will have to keep an eye out for her! Excellent.Oh and I've never read The Way of the Peaceful Warrior either! Too much to read!!!!!!!!!

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  3. Lani, I can understand how the early death of your father would dramatically affect your upbringing. I didn't so much have death surrounding me but there were scattered thoughts of who my real parents might be.I too enjoy Jon Kabat-Zinn. And can that man talk and talk and talk! From your “books that have had the most effect” I've read Women Who Run With the Wolves and The Power of Now but I could use a refresher. Last year I decided that 2011 is MY year so I'll add your other suggestions because sweetie, I trust you :-DSigh. Cliches. I know, I know. But when you haven't slept in donkey's years yet still need to spew posts out… there they are. Easy Peasy. To stave off guilt I've promised myself that ONE DAY I'll scour through all to extract the cliche nasties. But until then, I guilt, I guilt (ouch, yes?)

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  4. Do you know, I haven't read any of the books on your list! I'll definitely have to check some of them out, though. (And thanks for the link, lady!)

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  5. @Cat: I've never heard 'ol Jon talk. Hmmm. I must youtube him and see if I equally enjoy his lectures. It's a rare man who can write and read his own stuff.I would love to hear your reading suggestions. That would be great and as far as cliques are concerned, I can't recall if you are bad about that. I don't think so.And I love the phrase easy peasy! Oh you Brits ;)@Megan: You are most welcome for the link. Anytime, baby, anytime.

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  6. Lani, I can definitely see losing your father at such a young age could affect a child. The Way of the Peaceful Warrior is a good read You might also want to check out Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and The Art of War…

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  7. YES yes yes! I’ve always loved Agatha Christie, but I don’t agree that she’s formulaic unless you say that she practically invented the formula. There weren’t too many mystery writers before her, and the reason she’s so good is that her manner of storytelling is pure genius. Simple, straightforward, but she has such a knack for it!

    And is it bad that the only thing I’ve read by Stephen King is his “On Writing?” Great book.

    I haven’t read most of those others though – I’ve heard of some of them. (Now, off to Amazon.)

    Thanks for sending me here love!

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