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Inspiration vs. intimidation and reading good books

February 12th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments
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Ever read a book that makes you sick with envy? If you haven’t, you’re not reading enough, but that’s another post entirely. I just finished Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. It’s an amazing book and I’m insanely jealous.

What’s so good about it? Well, it’s extremely dense, for one thing. That doesn’t sound like a pleasant read, but every page is chock full of science, social commentary and insightful character actions and thoughts. In this the density does not become a slog but the reason to continue. It’s engaging and there’s something to learn on every page.

Now, when I read a good book, it’s often an inspiring thing. Many is the Stephen King or Chuck Palanuik book that’s been finished with one thought echoing round in my head, “I want to write”! But Red Mars is one novel where the mountain looks too steep. I think of just the science alone, and I cringe at the hours, days, weeks that must have been involved to get that level of detail. Then there’s the social and political commentary. While the events that take place are easy enough to dream up, it’s the detail (again) of the characters’ comments, beliefs and ideals that intimidate. Not forgetting that the book spans some thirty odd years in the lives of completely believable characters. And this is the first book in a trilogy!

Now, I do realise that this is quite a bit of whingy hand-wringing on my part. In truth (and even though it’s been quite a while since a book has affected me like this), I shrugged it off fairly quickly. There will always be someone better than you (much, much better probably. No offence), but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for you and that you should give up. I’m saying “you” but I am of course referring to myself, too.

I guess I can keep it as an example of something to aspire to, even if I think I’ll never get there. An even better take home message, is that our writing is different, and should stay that way. I should not be intimidated (or even inspired) to alter my writing style in worship of another writer. I shall continue with my writing and let my style grow, not in isolation, but in its own way.

We could get a really terrifying list of books here, but let’s embrace that! What books have intimidated you, and why?