We always talk about inspiring and influencing through creativity and creative works, but although it’s something we know instinctively, it always pays to have some great, concrete examples of how creative works have influenced others. It pays to acknowledge the fact that, of course, being influenced is inevitable. Once, one of my professors overheard a creative writing student claiming that they’re adamantly avoiding reading anything because it will affect their writing. My professor scoffed at this, and I would have, too. Attempting to deny others’ influence – so long as it’s good influence, the kind that makes you productive – may very well equate to denying your own work any relevance in any genre, in any aspect of life. It denies acknowledging your own roots – how you’ve come to fall in love with art and creativity, in the first place, or how you’ve come to think and act in certain ways. Influence is important, in other words, and it pays to always know what your influences are, for your own work to spring from them.
In this post, I’ll run through a few works and articles in which famous writers and artists acknowledge how existing works have already influenced them, whether the influence is on a specific work or on their entire creative oeuvre.
The Ecstacy of Influence by Jonathan Lethem
- Speculative fiction writer Jonathan Lethem released this collection of essays that, as the title suggests, largely discusses what has influenced him in various points in his life. Lethem talks about his relationship with the works of various writers and artists, from Philip K. Dick and J.G. Ballard, to Marvel works. It’s an interesting collection because you’ll be able to see how Lethem reacts to the figures that have shaped his life and form his interests – even as he speaks in his own voice and talks about his personal experiences.
- Dwight Garner wrote about Lethem’s book in the New York Times. Read it here.
Turning Point: 1997-2008 by Hayao Miyazaki
- Turning Point: 1997-2008 is a collection of essays, notes, interviews, poems, and illustrations by – or conducted with – Hayao Miyazaki, the ever-famous director of such films as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, and is just about synonymous with the Japanese animation studio, Studio Ghibli*. This is just a half of the series of books revolving around such a collection of material from Miyazaki, but 1997-1998 talks primarily about three of his most famous films – Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl’s Moving Castle. You’ll read in the notes and interviews about Miyazaki’s influences – and it’s not the kind of influence on which Miyazaki was compelled to build on, if that makes sense. Miyazaki shows that influence is not always following a certain tradition or style set by certain artists. He talks about Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, which he saw was a misrepresentation of certain aspects of Japanese history. He in turn attempted to amend this in Princess Mononoke. He talks about how Osamu Tezuka has influenced him – but only through certain works, and not Astro Boy. It’s an interesting read, certainly, as Miyazaki gives a lot of great insight on his work, and on what foundations he built them on.
A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
- Manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life is one huge book. Using manga as the medium to deliver his memoir, Tatsumi shows what the sights and sounds of his childhood were, what kind of world he was growing up in, and the effects of it all on his work. He was, like Miyazaki, inspired by Osamu Tezuka – but his was a glowing, wide-eyed, absolute admiration towards the Astro Boy creator, whom he managed to meet during his childhood. The book shows not just Tatsumi’s admiration for Tezuka, but also the other factors that influenced his manga style – films (the techniques used in which he incorporated in his work), existing four-panel manga (which he tried to distance himself from when he wanted to innovate), and the people around him. It just goes to show that influence isn’t just from one writer, or from something absolutely positive – influence goes in bits and pieces. How to craft everything was left to Tatsumi himself.
These are just a few works that show how others have managed to influence artists and their creative works. I repeat – it pays to acknowledge others’ influence. If you don’t particularly like how you’re being influenced, attempt to subvert it, or try to make something new out of it. If you like how the influence has come across to you, then by all means work with it. Creative works and creativity pulse with life — not just yours, but also others who have come before you, and who have lived and done their work before you. Consume a lot of material, and use them to your advantage. Let influence make you grow. The good work will certainly follow.