And we’re back.
New Year’s Eve has made its grand entrance and promptly fled, leaving 2017 to stare us in the face — this Friday marked a pivotal change of hands in America’s political sphere. Whether we like it or not, life has caught up to us. Noses are back to the grindstone. Days are getting longer. The mundanity threatens to swallow us up.
During times of stress and uncertainty, let me remind you of one great, forgotten comfort: Literature. Imagine the classic image of the easy chair, and yourself curled up in it, lost in the rapture of your favorite novel, fireplace blazing beside you. If, like me, you have neither fireplace nor easy chair, you might at least have a book. Wherever you are, be it a shack in the wilderness or a simple office cubicle, you can always escape to someplace far, far away. Surround yourself in the blanketing embrace of a book and whatever stress you labor under will be left behind with reality.
Perhaps it’s time to revisit our favorite books — hidden between their pages are pieces of our former selves. Just as Dr. Seuss dredges up forgotten memories of childhood, Fitzgerald, too, brings us back to adolescence. There’s a reason high school English curriculums insist upon the greats; I can confidently say that if I hadn’t been exposed to Hemingway and Bronte when I was eighteen, I would not be who I am today.
From each beloved novel we can extract certain strengths. From Jane Eyre I gained confidence in my natural abilities as a woman. Jane taught me that it is possible to extract yourself from an unhealthy situation. It will hurt so much at times you may feel unable to go on — but if Jane convinced me of anything, it’s that you must always keep going, no matter the risks.
From Hemingway, however, I gleaned something else entirely. A Farewell to Arms taught me the power of simple sentences and the importance of getting to the point. Juxtaposed with Bronte’s flowery language, there is a marked difference in the writing’s tone and purpose. I learned from those examples that each style has its time and place. As a writer, those choices are ours to make. Imitating the classics is a great way for nascent writers to develop their own style.
No matter what stage of life or career we are in, it’s helpful to take a step back every once and awhile to recall why we write in the first place. What stories inspire you? What writers do you want to emulate? What kind of writer do you aspire to be? Take a walk down memory lane, cull through your personal library, reread the books that shaped your desire to write. Reminisce, reminisce, reminisce.