Inspiration from Fictional Worlds

Jan 25, 2018

My last semester was extremely busy. So busy that I spent my commute on the train sleeping everyday instead of my usual reading. I’ll admit, most of my reading is done when I’m on the train. So other than the occasional manga or cookbook, I hardly read the last couple months of last year. Which is devastating.

This year (like every year), I resolved to read more. I started out the year reading two non-fictional books about personal finance. Good insightful content but hardly stimulating.

On impulse, I was at the library paying fines (my water bottle exploded in my backpack and ruined a book, I’m still a bit peeved) when I saw Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery on the shelf. I had just finished watching Anne on Netflix and I needed another dosage of Montgomery goodness.

Reading through Emily of New Moon struck something within me. Whenever I read good literature, I always have an urge to write. I know that I will never be as good as the authors that inspire me, but most of the time I just want to write for the sake of posterity.

In Emily of New Moon, the main character (you guessed it, Emily) writes letters to her father as a sort of journaling mechanism. This made me long for my journal. I have tried writing journals many times but my anxiety of my mother reading my journal has made me hesitate each time. I see this blog as a sort of journal but I still have to censor myself as this is (obviously) public. I do admire those who can freely write in their blogs but it’s hard for me to take that step especially since many of my thoughts are so personal.

Reading about this little girl writing so freely made me envious. I started to write a little more in a notebook.

Then I heard about the passing of Ursula K. Le Guin. It’s been around a year since I first stumbled upon A Fisherman of the Inland Sea. I was completely enamored by the book. When I was younger, I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy. Things like Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke, The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix, Harry Potter (of course), The Last Dragon Chronicles by Chris d’Lacey, etc. There was something about being immersed in a totally fictional and supernatural world that I found captivating.

Le Guin is a master at creating such worlds, although she tends towards science fiction rather than fantasy (in my opinion). Her world building is expansive and natural and oh so imaginative (I picture Anne of Green Gables saying a similar thing with her eyes wide and her hands clasped).

Two of my friends are currently taking a science fiction course where they will eventually read Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. I’ve read a couple of Le Guin’s books (mostly compilations of her short stories) but haven’t touched any of her more popular novels. Thanks to the power of Audible, I managed to get a free copy of the audiobook.

However, listening to Le Guin’s words just isn’t the same as reading them. Maybe it was the narrator but I couldn’t get myself into it. There was one scene that I could pay attention to but when it came to the description of politics and the general world, I couldn’t focus.

So I made a trip to my local library to scout for some more of her books. The Left Hand of Darkness is a popular book and the wait-list for it was thirty people long so I knew I wouldn’t be reading that any time soon. But I did manage to pick up one of her books that were decidedly not science-fiction, The Unreal and the Real: Volume One: Where on Earth.

I had barely read through the introduction and the first sentence of the first chapter when I put the book down. I instinctively shivered and got out my notebook to essentially write most of what I have already written here. It was a special moment. Le Guin had captured me entirely.

In a way, I’m jealous at how beautifully Le Guin seems to string along her sentences. I’ve never really had a way with words, especially if they come out of my mouth. I have to think slowly and carefully and even in the written form, I’m not as eloquent as I wish I could be.

Even though I could never hope to be a master of words like Le Guin and Montgomery, I can imagine. I can spin tales in my head and conjure up these characters that seem real to me. I probably wouldn’t be able to capture their essence in the written form but at least they’re something that I’ve created. I think having an imagination is a wonderful thing. It’s been a while since I’ve imagined anything and I’m glad that reading has started my mind up again.