Influence Vs. Inspiration
Yes, I’m back on this again. Because over the past two weeks I have come to realise that there is a distinct gap between these two related ideas. So lets explore them shall we?
The Two I’s
So, what is the difference? I posted a few weeks back about Influence being a bad thing. And it can be, when it gets too strong. But what of Inspiration?
Well, let me highlight the difference, as I see it.
Influence is when you are (consciously or unconsciously) driven to emulate someone else’s work.
Inspiration is when you are driven to progress your own work after being exposed to, well, whatever source.
Yes, I know I’m making positive and negative distinctions here. Influence being negative, Inspiration being positive. But over the past month or so, this is how I have come to regard the two. Influence can be insidious, as I discovered when I realised that what I was currently writing could be seen as a rip off of the work of Neal Asher (though let’s be fair, if you’re going to rip someone off, you might as well rip off the best!) This sent me into something of a crisis, and actually put me off writing for a while.
But in that time I have been subjected to a great deal of, lets say Input, and I have drawn Inspiration from it. Whether its been watching Manga, or playing Mass Effect 2, or watching the new series of Spooks, the avenues of thought that have been opened up for me have been a revelation. And it’s not just big things, it might even be something as simple as a tiny idea which has caused me no end of grief in trying to explain away a plot hole, or giving me new opportunities to develop back story that make my characters feel more fleshed out. I know I’m not exactly making a strong case for originality here, but it can be the most tried and tested ideas that give us the biggest inspiration to do something new.
You want evidence?
OK, so I’ll take a simple example. A while back now, I spoke enthusiastically of my genre, science fiction. And about how dangerous it can be to get dated very quickly. I had to do a minor edit on a piece, just because it was set ten years from now, and one of the characters used a computer mouse. And current technological development indicates that mice will be obsolete in ten years.
Anyway, my first book, which I am forever redrafting is also in such danger. Due mainly to it’s heavy reliance of computer technology. How do you predict it though? Well, I’ve been having a few issues with how to develop the ideas of the technology without it becoming too ‘out there’. This is where Mass Effect 2 comes into play. Much can be said about the writing behind video games, but this is not the time or the place. The universe of Mass Effect is very rich and full of little details, and it was whilst reading through the many codex entries that are discovered in the game that kicked off a deluge of Inspiration for me. Now, if I were going to be Influenced, I’d have said ‘that’s a good idea, I’ll use that.’ But no, I was Inspired, which kicked off new avenues of thought, cultivated new ideas, and actually helped me solve some of the issues I’d been having.
I know it’s a bit of a no-brainer to say that you should absorb as much material as you can. Watching, reading, playing, whatever, are all necessary practices for developing as a writer (just so long as doing so doesn’t get in the way of, you know, the actual writing), but one must always be aware of the two I’s. Yes, draw Inspiration from whatever you absorb, just be wary of being too Influenced by it. Anyone have any thoughts on the difference between the two?