I believe we are all put here on this Earth to learn and grow. We are each unique individuals, distinguished by our separate experiences and how we responded to them. There is some part of us – some tendencies – that we are born with, but the rest of what we are and become is shaped by our environment.
Life is not fair – at least not if you think that each and every one of us should have the same advantages and disadvantages (hmmm – would they BE advantages and disadvantages if we all had the same ones?) There is no point at railing against the injustice of how this person started with more money, or better looks, or poorer health, or in a 4th world country. The most important thing about life is how you react to your situation – how you grow from what is dealt or thrown your way.
I have been a conscious proponent (for at least a couple of decades) of bringing your whole self to the job, task, event, or whatever you are involved in in that moment. I went to college to study computer science, and the jobs I have had since then have all revolved around that topic. But we aren’t duplicate widgets that when plugged in perform the exact same tasks in identical ways.
In the performance of my day jobs, I have brought parts of myself that had nothing to do with my chosen discipline, and that have informed my work as well as my co-workers. No one hired me explicitly because of my theatre experience (in fact, it prevented my hire by employers who didn’t want to spend ALL THEIR EFFORT to train me, just to have me leave when I got MY BIG BREAK. I actually did the same job for one of them later through a temp agency – I worked a week for them on 30-minutes training.) My wargaming past didn’t come up in any interview (it did come into question when the Treasury Department investigated me, but that’s another thing entirely.) My love of music, including karaoke and playing instruments, was never a cause for my being hired. And yet each of these aspects of my development came into play in unpredictable ways to make me the unique coder, and eventually the project manager that I became.
My love of writing also informed how I performed my employment positions, and in turn my writing was influenced by those jobs and everything else I have experienced.
When someone asks a writer what they’re influences are, they tend to start naming various authors – usually in their chosen genre. They don’t often say “I used to watch ant colonies battle across my front lawn” or “I remember crawling through our iced-over backyard swamp among the blueberry-bush tussocks.” Or of how their theatre experience – reading and performing plays – helped the characters in my head speak to me (I did hear Brandon Sanderson in one of his lectures credit theatre for being like a dialogue camp for him, but I don’t think he meant the same thing as I do.)
Watching Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone as I grew up heavily influenced me to think of twists and surprises, and probably influences a lot of my ability to think outside the box (the answer you’re looking for is not always the most obvious.) That show, and television / cinema as a whole – tends to influence how I see stories in my mind – how they choose to appear to me.
So where do the ideas come from? What is my inspiration?
Most of my ideas for stories come from speculating (that’s why it’s called SPECULATIVE FICTION) – what if this device, or this creature, or this technology existed? Many times an image I see (or one that appears in my mind unbidden, like an inkblot) starts a search for what that image is about – what’s the story behind it. A chance phrase – especially anything with a double entendre / pun nature – can give birth to a story.
Wherever they come from, once a story gets started, it takes me where it wants to go, as though it has its own unique experiences and influences, separate from my own (or at least any that I can consciously put a finger on.) The CURSE (or BLESSING) of being a PANTSER.
So – What made you who you are? What unexpectedly influences the way you do your job? What affects and inspires what you create? My enquiring mind would like to know (and especially would like to see you share them in the comments below.)
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William Mangieri’s writing has been published on Daily Science Fiction and The Arcanist. His ninety or so short stories and related collections can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
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