In the process of figuring out just how much I enjoy writing as a career choice, I’ve spent a lot of time reading. While most of the time this has applied to books and blogs, short stories and comics, I’ve always made time to read the writing of those who contribute to the things that I enjoy the most – film, video games, and travel/food. As I believe it’s important to acknowledge one’s influences, here are the three people I’ve tried most to model my own writing off of.
I’ve been following Adam Sessler’s work since his days at Tech TV, which then transformed into the gaming goliath known as XPlay. While I was always a fan of the way that he was able to quickly get to the heart of exactly what made video games great – or not so great – combining that with a humor and genuine passion for the medium, it wasn’t until his move to Revision3Games that I began to really see exactly what it was that had always been attractive to me about his work. Watching the first entry in his weekly vlog, Sessler’s…Something, he discussed in the kind of academic detail the nature of collecting gaming memorabilia and why we buy into the notion that throwing things away is a bad thing. While this in itself had the potential to be something fun and interesting (and that’s about it), it was the way in which he seamlessly integrated and applied Freudian psychoanalysis to his own actions that really stuck out to me. His ability to take an academic approach to video game journalism, while at the same time making everything he says completely accessible to each and every one of his viewers, has been the single aspect of his work that has inspired me the most. I can only hope to one day be able to do that nearly as well as he does.
My attachment to Bourdain’s work began during my first semester of graduate school, where I spent an entire weekend doing nothing but watching a marathon of his Travel Channel series, No Reservations. While the exotic foods and gorgeous cinematography were what drew me in, it was Bourdain’s narration that got me to stay. Combining a keen intellect with often cutting humor, there was an honesty to the way that he approached discussing the myriad cultures and people that he encounters that reflected genuine passion for knowledge and experience. Inspired to go back and read the book that launched his career, Kitchen Confidential, I was blown away by the conversational tone of the book – it reads exactly like the narration that he writes for his television series’. Bourdain has always maintained that he doesn’t work on his writing as a craft, claiming that he writes the way he speaks, and I find that admirable, if a little aggravating (no matter what he says, the simple act of writing is working on your craft). Since then I’ve devoured the rest of his books, and that kind of conversational tone is what I often strive towards in my own writing.
Perhaps the most longstanding of my writing influences, the late Roger Ebert is perhaps the most important film critic of all time. While there are of course others who are more “academic” than he, it was precisely the kind of accessibility that separated him from the masses (you’ll perhaps notice a trend in the kind of writing that I wish to emulate). Combining an encyclopedic knowledge of film with an undying passion for the medium, when writing his reviews, Ebert always managed to judge each and every film on its own merits, never making undue comparisons between “high art” cinema with summer blockbusters. In addition to his prolific and influential writing on film, the way in which Ebert made use of technology and social media to overcome the loss of his physical voice is inspiring, as well as the way in which he embraced the ease with which it is now possible to connect with so many people. Checking in on his blog and Twitter feed were always the best experiences on the Internet that I had on any given day. I never knew him, but I miss this man.
There are, of course, many others that have influenced me as a writer, ranging from novelists and poets to screenwriters and journalists and academics. And, of course, there will be plenty more as I continue to read and write. I look forward to learning from them.