So … there’s a meme going around the blogs/tumblrs/deviantarts/etcs of creative types this week, the “Influence Map.” It’s pretty straightforward, really: By remembering who influenced us, we might recapture the creative spark that those influencers first lit in us however many months/years/decades ago.
I’ve never really thought about this much before. Because my creative interests are spread out (too thin?) across many media (visual art, music, poetry, writing, tacos), it was almost a challenge to pinpoint just who/what I’d consider an “influence.” If someone asks me very specifically, such as “what drummers influenced you,” it’s easy enough to rattle off a list of five or so. And based on the influence maps I’ve seen out there so far, it seems like it was easier for single-discipline artists to generate their selections. Me? It took a while, but the results were, sadly, as predictable as my Last.fm lists:
For any who need clarification, here we go, basically from upper left:
1. Henry Rollins – Less for his actual music or poetry or whatever (though I like a lot of it), but more for his ascetic lifestyle, his tireless work ethic, and his insistence on just putting it all out there, regardless of whether or not it’s great. I mean, really, he’s a terrible singer, a bad poet and a mediocre writer, and yet he’s made a successful career of it all.
2. Jim Morrison – While it was the music of the Doors that drew me in, it was definitely the mystique built around its lead singer (whether justified or not) that caused me some, ahem, crisis of identity in my more tender years.
3. John Byrne – A lot of you comic geeks out there are going to hate me for this, but let’s face it: He made some of my favorite comics of the 1970s and 80s, and his one-man-showiness even back then was an inspiration.
4. Fred Rogers – Really wish I could have shaken this man’s hand and thanked him for all he had done.
5. Trent Reznor – It occurred to me the other day that as few CDs/records as I own or have ever purchased, my collection of Nine Inch Nails albums is nearly complete. As badly as I tried to emulate NIN’s sound in the mid-1990s (somewhat unconsciously), as with Rollins, it’s as much Reznor’s hard work and independence that gives something to which I can aspire.
6. Buddhism – One day, I’ll find a way to just be.
7. Stan Lee – ‘Nuff said.
8. James Dean – Well, I didn’t die at 27, so there’s that.
9. Kermit the Frog/Jim Henson – I swear I cry when I hear “The Rainbow Connection.”
10. Jack Kirby – I was a late convert to Kirby’s genius, but man, how it didn’t hit me before, I don’t know. That man’s name is synonymous with “dynamism.”
11. Kurt Cobain – And still here after 27.
12. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. – I have a dream too, sir.
13. Jesus of Nazareth – He had 12 apostles. I have 1,600 followers on Twitter. Do the math.
14. Carl Bernstein & Bob Woodward – You could easily add Ben Bradlee to this as well. Without them, there’d be no journalism schools, and without those, well …
15. John Lennon – Man.
16. John Romita, Jr. – If there is one comic book artist who has never failed me in 30 years, it’s him. I’ve tried to emulate his style. It’s pointless.
17. Bono/U2 – I like to pretend that the last 20 years of U2’s music hasn’t happened, but still: charisma, earnestness, power, emotion and yes, altruism.
18. Aaron Sorkin – If I could have one screenwriting tutor …
19. The Crow – Not so much the comic or the character but I guess the original movie and the aesthetics. Hard to explain.
20. Prince – Another musician whose nuts I was all up on way too hard. Somehow I went from writing Goth-punk anthems to creating electro-funk jams and singing in a falsetto because of this little man.
21. Cameron Crowe – If there is any career trajectory I could follow, this fanboy-turned-journalist-turned-screenwriter-turned-director’s would be it.
22. Thomas Paine – The original T-Paine.
23. Tucker Rule/Thursday – One of my favorite bands ever features a self-taught drummer who must be part machine.
24. Robert Smith/The Cure – Yep, yet another band I stole so much from in the 1990s.
25. Guns N’ Roses – When someone says the term “rock band,” this is what I picture. Whenever I hear GNR — original-ish lineup era GNR — it just makes me want to make the greatest, loudest, ugliest rock music ever. Instead, you guys get As Yet Unbroken. Sorry.
My only other comment on this map is that it’s a bit sad there are no real female presences to be seen. I mean, I suppose that’s only natural — I am a man, mostly, and in general, we tend to identify with same-gender models — but outside of my mother, I really couldn’t conjure up specific female influences. Which is odd, because I don’t normally relate to most men.