spheres of influence

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A sphere of influence is a country or area in which another nation has the power to affect developments although it has no formal authority. In simpler terms, if someone is in your sphere of influence, they have informal power over you. People usually talk about spheres of influence in the context of international relations or political science, but one can think of spheres of influence in terms of their own relationships: who do you influence, and who influences you?

As a writer, it’s important for me to think about influences on my writing. I’ve had many influences–teachers, parents, books–but one of the most powerful influences on my writing never taught me anything about writing. Instead, my grandpa read what I wrote.

My sophomore year of high school, I decided to take part in Nanowrimo, a program during the month of November in which writers from all over the world write a 50,000 word novel in the 30-day month. It’s intense. I planned my story during the weeks leading up to the event–world-building, character-planning, plot-plotting, hoping that I wouldn’t crash and burn. The month began, and I wrote every free second, trying to keep my word count up.

And then my grandparents came to visit.

I was eager to explain what Nanowrimo was and talk about my novel–the book had taken over my life–but I didn’t expect much interest. Imagine my delight when my grandpa was interested, asking to read what I had so far, happy to talk about my story! (Remember when I said that writers are a needy bunch? Still true.) Even after Nanowrimo ended–and my novel didn’t–he was the one who kept reading what I wrote. I finished the novel because I knew that he was curious about the ending.

My grandpa is in my writing sphere of influence, not because he himself writes, or has taught me to write, but because he encouraged me. Writers love to talk about this parent and that teacher and such-and-such novel, but I think that sometimes the most powerful influence on our writing isn’t the people who taught us to write. It’s the audience. Just knowing they’re there.

Shouting into a void gets exhausting after a while.

4 thoughts on “spheres of influence

  1. Family is so important, especially when you need support to do something so hard and tedious. That is incredible that you had that bond with your grandpa. I am sure he appreciates it so much. It is amazing that you participated in that! It is perfectly okay that you didn’t finish writing the novel – the fact that you continue to write is wonderful. I have faith that someday you will become a wonderful writer if you continue having the work ethic you seem to have!

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  2. I had a similar experience with my grandpa. He would collect poems I wrote when I was younger and put them into a little book. He even made copies and passed them out at family gatherings, which was embarrassing but encouraging at the same time. 🙂 The people who encourage us to write definitely influence us because it is for them we continue to write at all.

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  3. This is so true, Libby! In her book on the Inklings, Diana Glyer calls these people resonators. Your grandpa was certainly a resonator for you. He was a friendly, supportive audience for you, and that is crucial for writers!

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