You’ll often hear people bandying about the phrase that a book “changed my life”.
I was always somewhat skeptical as to the veracity of such a statement – sure, I’ve enjoyed books, but reading something hasn’t changed my life. Well, that’s not entirely true – I’d always been a staunch believer in all things paranormal until I read Paranormality by Professor Richard Wiseman, and now I’m a staunch skeptic.
But Could a Novel Change My Life?
When coming up with the topic for this post, I told Christopher that the book I’d chosen to discuss hadn’t changed my life, that it had simply inspired me to pursue a writing career in a more serious fashion. Christopher pointed out that in essence, the book had changed my life, so here I am, talking about Neil Gaiman’s Smoke & Mirrors.
It’s probably not the first title that might pop into your head when discussing inspirational books, but let me explain. I’d read most things I could get my hands on from a very young age, and I’ve been scribbling stories for as long as I can remember, so I can’t really pinpoint the moment at which I decided I wanted to be a writer.
But there’s a big difference between writing stories for the enjoyment of it, and writing with the goal of “becoming a writer”.
I had been writing short stories, some of which I even submitted to magazines, but it all seemed very vague. It was something I did more for my own amusement than anything else. Then along came Gaiman.
Falling In Love with Writing
I read the first story, Chivalry, on a bus journey in London, and I fell in love.
Gaiman’s writing was so rich and imaginative, and the stories were so inventive and original, I couldn’t help but want to re-read them as soon as I’d finished the whole collection. There were one or two stories I wasn’t entirely keen on, but the beauty of the story collection format meant I could simply skip onto the next story. If I had a favourite, I could dip into the book and read whenever I chose. Even now, Chivalry is quite possibly my favourite short story ever written – and it’s got some serious competition.
More than that, I could see that there was very much a market for shorter fiction, for stories that could while away a bus journey, or fill in the commercial break in a TV programme. A story didn’t need 75,000 words or more to tell itself – its universe could be contained to 5000 words or less, if that’s all it needed.
All of a sudden, that clutch of stories I’d written didn’t seem so silly, or trivial.
I’d been entertained and enchanted by Gaiman’s words so maybe, just maybe, someone could be entertained by mine.
Have you ever read anything that affirmed your own place as a writer? What stories have shown the power of writing to you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Image courtesy of Felix.