I wrote a comment on the Clarion Blog discussing the influence of what we’re reading on our writing. I’m re-posting it here.
I’ve always wondered about this, but haven’t been strict in terms of what I’ve read or not read around the time of my writing. Maybe I haven’t been as keenly aware of my output as others, but I find that what I read inevitably helps make connections in my writing. I love the “Aha! I could put something like that in!” moments while reading and writing. I find serendipitous discoveries very satisfying and illuminating.
Back to style, though, I think what we’re reading must have an impact, but I don’t think we’re necessarily going to reproduce what we read. What goes on around us at all moments of the day impacts how we write that day, in my opinion — confining your sensory input to try and produce a specific result is a bit hardcore for me. My thought is that if you go with the flow and read what you like, your style might change in small measurable ways (as it would with any life changes that you can’t control) but the beautiful part about editing is that you can pick up on these stylistic changes and correct them.
As far as editing consistently goes, I’m not sure how much I can say. I’m currently experiencing my first serious editing on a large work, so I haven’t a clue if it will carry the same style throughout or not. Perhaps controlling your sensory input at this stage will speed the process up, making the edits more consistent so that less iterations are required to bring the work to a cohesive, whole stage. However, I think that stylistic shifts can sometimes be beautiful, particularly when they’re unplanned (but not always).
I think that, in the end, finding the right creative process that makes it enjoyable is the most important thing. If confining your reading to Charles Dickens for a year makes you want to claw your eyeballs out, then it’s not worth it. If that sounds like the excuse you’ve wanted to read everything Dickens has ever created, then great! Creating something massive out of nothing is a great deal of work, and I think whatever gives you inspiration or motivation through reading or other input is always good, and helps bring beautiful art into the world.