About ten years ago I read Girl with a Pearl Earring, a beautifully crafted, brilliant book by Tracy Chevalier. After reading it, I wanted to be a writer again. I was inspired to sit down and write, to mould a story, invent and develop characters. It took me three years, but I finished Charlotte’s Inheritance. It is not yet published, but I now consider myself a writer.
Last week I started reading A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book. It is an incredible novel, with a host of amazing characters, and so much information about the turn of the twentieth century. She writes so skillfully, and I learn so much without feeling like I’m being lectured at. While writing Charlotte’s Inheritance, I read other works by Byatt, and I feel like her “instructional” prose influenced that story. However, I do not feel inspired by The Children’s Book. Instead, I feel disheartened, unworthy, incapable of creating anything worthwhile. Her standard is so high, and my ability so low, why do I bother?
Intellectually, I’ve been wondering why those two responses? The Girl with the Pearl Earring remains one of my favorite books. Byatt’s new novel has not set a standard that Chevalier did not reach. Why does one incredible book inspire and another incredible book deflate?
Is it my own mood? The book I’m currenly writing isn’t progressing well. I am having trouble making myself work on it, and it isn’t growing at the rate it should. When I’m reading Byatt, I’m neglecting Olivia. Is that it? Is it something else?