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.