I submitted my very first article to Inspiration-Letters the other day, a forum for inspired writers here at the Sri Chinmoy Centre site. Although something of a closet writer for a while, I have until now never been asked to submit an article to this forum, and thus have been forced, nursing bruised pride and wounded ego, to tell people repeatedly and without prompting, "Yes, but I was published in New Zealand's largest magazine a few years ago you know." Less than convincing air of indifference aside, I was in truth all the time waiting for the call from the Inspiration-Letters editor.
The article was a 2,700 word "when-will-it-end?" behemoth, signal of self-indulgence perhaps, but inspiration was the true intention. The assigned topic for this (yet to be published) issue was "Extreme Sports and Adventure," and knowing of no sports more extreme than early morning jogging I went with "Adventure," although subverting it somewhat to own writerly interest: about myself as usual, my favourite topic of all.
I just now received a reply from the Inspiration-Letters editor, an acknowledgment of receipt, and quite unexpectedly (and generously), a comparison of myself to Tolkein—influence of hobbit and elves detected quite by surprise in my epic-sized rambling.
Unfortunately for my vanity I had to decline the association, except as at quite a stretch a completely unconscious one, for although I like anyone else with even a segment of an imagination more than enjoyed The Lord of the Rings —and especially so at age eleven—I'm pretty sure I was not influenced by the trilogy beyond buying the box set on DVD when it was released. Other than a completely idle hobby of detecting elvish features in real life people (it's true, some people really do look like elves), a lips-sealed hobby I'm pretty sure no-one else knew about, I'm now rather curious to hear from this editor how in this world he detected a Middle-Earthen resemblance?
Actually, were I going to assign a child-hood book a formative influence, it would be a series, Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising, where Celtic mythology and a Mahabharata like battle between dark and light mix so strongly I would finish each book insisting "it must be true!"
With regard to writerly influence, I think you need to have a body of writing to determine such a thing, and I have barely a limb. Although having done very little writing to date, I'm calling it a situation hopeful rather than discouraging, for I can still believe that one of these days I may get better.
Still, if you looked really hard, I would be more than flattered to be accused of emulating just a drop of Whitman, the first-thought-best-thought Zen aesthetic of Jack Kerouac and the Beat Poets, and maybe in somebody's wildest imagination the quirkiness and joyful obliqueness of Dickinson. I'm also a huge fan of Rainer Maria Rilke and Rabindranath Tagore, although not a knowledgeable one. Other than these authors, I have to all intents and purposes barely read at all, a side-effect of a willful ignorance during my "education," but I do plan to catch up on literary classes skipped one of these days.
I have a piece of writing on the go at the moment as to my literary beginnings entitled "How I didn't become a writer", the story of how my career in design of some years began when I applied for a part-time writing job, full-time graphic design position awarded instead. It is one of I kid you not twenty articles currently on the go, started upon bursts of inspiration but awaiting bursts of enthusiasm for completion, a state which certainly speaks of some quality or other—industry, prodigiousness, or that I am perpetually half-baked!
At the very least, to the reader's either regret or gratitude, my web diary shouldn't be running dry for a while...