When a writer is looking for inspiration, where is it to be found? I read an interesting article on one aspect of this in a magazine I get every month--the Romance Writers Report. It’s a professional magazine for writers who regard what they are doing as a career, a profession, and important in their life. It delved into another aspect of where we find inspiration and what focus means for the creative person.
Written by Erin Quinn and Kris Kennedy, the article was titled, “That’s my book she wrote!” and deals with how often great ideas for books come at the same time. They do that because the writer is out paying attention to the world and suddenly they see a story. I’ve had it happen. Most writers have likewise. Then… the article said, you look at someone else’s recently published book and realize a lot of the elements are in your own. Could be title, characters, setting. This isn’t copying the other writer. It happens at the same time— simultaneous.
From the article: “In the scientific world, they know all about it. It’s called the theory of multiple discovery, and it’s the notion that many scientific discoveries and inventions are made independently and almost simultaneously by multiple scientists and/or inventors…”
I hadn't thought of this happening with books but had heard of it happening a lot from my inventor, consultant, innovator husband. It is why in his world, there is often a rush to get a patent and why they consider lab notebooks critical to proving their work wasn’t copied.
This issue of potentially being influenced is a lot of why I almost never read romances-- even though I would enjoy them sometimes. The advice in the article was-- read a lot of them before you begin writing your own. I did that. Then-- quit reading them at all while writing. That subtle influence, where you don’t know from where it came, is why some consider it best not to read in the genre in which they write.
I suppose some writers are not easily influenced. I don’t know if I would be. I do know that these days, when I am not writing or researching, I stick to non-fiction—a lot of it. It is what interests me as that's from where new ideas will come. I am writing romances and don't want ideas from others who are also writing them.
When I hear of an interesting romance by someone else, I buy it but store it for the future. Who knows I might change genre—or come to a time I write less. For now I concentrate on my own plots, characters and settings helped along by non-fiction and what’s been going on in the world—or happened next door. Yep, nobody who knows a writer should consider themselves surprised if they find some aspect of their life in the next book… But if the writer is ethical, it won’t be clearly obvious who it was by name. Save that for non-fiction.