I have always been an avid reader, which is probably how I ended up becoming a writer: I am compelled to completely immerse myself in any story possible. Characters become best friends, their conflicts my conflicts, and when I stop reading I get confused because the real world seems like the fictional one.
This also extends to television, as well, although I'm not one of those casual TV watchers. No channel surfing, and definitely no reality TV, but I will get swept up in a show with strong characters and compelling stories - good writing, essentially.
It seems an odd analogy, but I look at my need to create and my story obsession as two different "modes" that I go into.
I have my "output" mode where I create. I write, I do pottery, I make collages, I convince myself I want to build spice racks or a bookshelves, and every now and then I'll draw or paint.
And on the other side of the coin, I have my "input" mode, where I absorb everything I can. I'll read voraciously (a book or two or three a week), I'll lose entire weekends to TV show marathons (I told you I'm not a casual watcher), occasionally I'll go to an art or photo gallery, or sometimes I'll just people-watch.
Obviously the goal as a writer is to be in output mode as often as possible so I can work on building my body of work, but I've realized how important my input mode is, as well. What I read and watch and see and hear influences my writing a great deal. While I sleep, or sometimes even when I daydream, my brain will come up with strange mash-ups of different worlds which result in some of my best story ideas. It also exposes me to different story telling styles and reminds me to keep an open mind. Sometimes it discourages the hell out of me (why do I even bother trying when this is so much better than anything I could ever write), but sometimes it encourages and inspires me (I am a better writer than that, so if they can do it, I might be able to).
I bring this up for two reasons. For one, I like to share my process with you all. Sharing helps me figure out what my process actually is!
The other reason is because I believe it would be a useful exercise to talk about the significance of the things I'm inputting. That way, I'm forced to think about what elements I find compelling, and I can steal those things and fold them into my own style. I'd like to start doing a weekly (or maybe monthly) themed post on what I've been devouring for my "input mode" and talk about how it is influencing my "output mode."
A recent example, of course, is Doctor Who. The characters and the plots and the world inspired me so much that I literally stole the whole package for my output mode. Usually it's not that extreme, but you get the idea.
This may be a Monday-type post, since I tend to start and finish most of my stuff on weekends when I have time to immerse myself without interruptions. It could also turn into a Friday-type post so I have something to look forward to writing on Friday afternoon. I'll play around with it for awhile until I figure out what works. Stay tuned!