Writers are a unique breed, in that they seek counsel and advice at every turn along their professional path. Books for writers sell like hotcakes, YouTube videos on the subject of writing, or its inspiration, often top the charts, and seminars, conferences, and speeches on the art can normally fill a room with those clamoring to learn more, or hear how to do it better.
I’m most intrigued with those of us who seek out the old masters for advice and wisdom, such as Emily Bronte, Jane Austen, Margaret Mitchell, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clark, Isaac Asimov, Kurt Vonnegut, Jules Verne, J.R.R Tolkien, H.G. Wells, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Jack London, Agatha Christie, and, oh, so many more! Depending upon our chosen genres, there are certainly one or more of the preceding names whom writers consider godlike. Well, wait . . . Does the age of the writer matter? Apparently so, because those mentioned had their masters, too.
Ernest Hemingway admired authors Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov, John Steinbeck prized the King Arthur stories written by Sir Thomas Malory, and H.G. Wells, who wrote what he termed “Scientific Romances” in the late-1800s (later coined Science Fiction), admired George Bernard Shaw to whom a great friendship formed. It is said that Jack London, later in his life, purchased plotlines from an as yet unpublished Sinclair Lewis, saying, “Well, I can’t construct plots worth a dam, but I can everlastingly elaborate.”
But what of today’s “old masters?” To name a few, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Nora Roberts, Johanna Lindsey, John Green, Nicholas Sparks, John Grisham, and again, oh, so many more! They had their masters, too. The great Mr. King once stated, “Without Ray Bradbury, there is no Stephen King.” Johanna Lindsey admires authors Kathleen E. Woodiness and Rosemary Rogers, saying they are the writers who started her genre. When author Nicholas Sparks was asked about his inspiration, he said, “I like to think part of my trademark is the quality of the storytelling, and that skill is owed in large part to reading everyone from Stephen King and John Grisham to Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck.” Ah, yes, the old masters! (Spark’s has a helpful writer section on his website at: http://nicholassparks.com/for-writers/ )
The masters before us affect us in many ways. Writers should take seriously the scrutiny of their final product, lest their footprints in the literary world be washed away by the next wave. Write a masterpiece, not just a novel to earn a dime! Use your talent the way the “Greats” before you have done. Write so that your name cannot be erased. Dare to become one of the masters.