Peggy Bechko: The Writer’s Influence


by Peggy Bechko

There are many many quotes about writers, writing and the imaginary world writers create. Quotes about how reading and writing affect us, what reading means to us, the joy of fascinating communication.

One of my favorites is by Oscar Wild –

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”? Oscar Wilde

Think about that for a while.

Oh, Oscar you only published one novel (remember The Picture Of Dorian Gray 1891) but were nonetheless a proficient and versatile writer. You also had a very acerbic tongue at times (what am I saying, at times?). Oscar was more into plays. He wrote and produced nine of them in the Victorian era which must have had its challenges. So I’d venture to guess he might have taken up pen to write for TV or film in this era. He probably would have had some very pointed remarks on the subject as well.

But I digress. We were talking about the quote above. Have you thought about it? Most of the folks reading this are writers in one stage or another of their career, or their hoped for career. Thus, we’re also mostly readers (we darn well better be). Oscar wasn’t acquainted with the mass entertainment venues we have in this era so he couldn’t have extrapolated that quote into film, TV, the web, whatever.

But seriously, think about it. Doesn’t it apply to what we watch as well? (and thus to writers of the scripts of our lives?)

What you watch when you don’t have to (i.e. you aren’t watching to learn something or broaden your horizons, you’re watching only for entertainment) determines what you will be when you can’t help it.

Plainly what you watch or partake in is not the ONLY thing influencing your life, but I think it is plain that it does have an influence.

Example? Well, laughter for one. It’s now established that laughter is good medicine. Therefore, doesn’t it stand to reason that what you watch, should it make you laugh, might actually be good for you? Doesn’t it stand to reason that that is an influence on you? That you take something away from it that you might pass on to others? Or, if you choose to watch a heavy drama, doesn’t it seem that it will influence you for good or ill? Or a video game – again, won’t it raise your better (or perhaps not so much) instincts?

This is a debate I know is taking place in the entertainment industry all the time. What influence the various streams of entertainment, from books, to film, to tablets and their contents have on the user. It far and away is not the only influence on any reader, or watcher, but it is an influence.

And, it’s not new. Oscar wrote and produced plays. So did Shakespeare. Gilgamesh was ‘written’ by somebody. We’ve just watched the Oscars and based on that alone who can say film and entertainment doesn’t influence our lives?

So I circle back to Oscar’s quote at the beginning of this short article and I say thanks Oscar, thanks for the food for thought.