I know I am. And by sponge, I mean I seem to soak in every outside stimulus and customize it to what I'm writing. And I mean everything. One day, on a blog the comment inspired me to add a pet for my Grim Reaper character. Yeah. As someone pointed out, my grim has a grim. I think it fits. Would I have thought of that without outside influence? I kind of doubt it.
Some people say you can't write in a box. I think that's true. I think too much time alone will accomplish not much more than sharpening some pencils or going into some kind of strange drum solo with those sharpened pencils! Call it inspiration or influence, I know I need something.
Other times, it's not a particular thing, but a mood I soak up like a sponge. There have been days I've felt my whole writing day might sink to the doldrums because I heard some bad news or even talked to someone who was having a bad day. Have you ever done that? Tried to cheer someone up and next thing you know, you're as miserable as they are? Yes, there's truth in the saying that misery loves company. I recall a Grey's Anatamy episode where the doctor's go out to cheer up Derek and next thing you know, they are all missing in action and drowning their sorrows in alcohol. One character after another told a "war" story. "You think that's bad, well there was this time..."
There is a danger and a benefit in being a sponge. If I'm lucky, I might be able to use that darker mood for a scene and I can actually be productive. I have actually managed to use anxiety and social awkwardness in what I hope made a character sympathetic. If I hadn't experienced it, would I have thought of it quite so vividly that day? I doubt it.
Other times, of course, a dark mood will stop the writing cold. Too much and I know I better get some lighter and brighter influences in my life very fast.
So are you a sponge? Do you find your writing influenced by the daily stimulus around you? Ever find it hard to keep the balance of productive influence?