Tuesday, September 28, 2010

From Head to Hand: Nothing New Under the Sun

Being a writer, or really a creative person of any kind, can be stressful.  There are many critics out there who would love nothing better to sink their claws into your work and tear it to shreds.  What is the main thing critics look for in an artistic piece?  Originality.

I hear many creative people agonise over their work.  Is it original enough?  Or is it the same old plot, rehashed for the fifty millioneth time?  In fact, I've heard that Hollywood really only has about 5-10 movie plots which they work from, but slightly adapt each time.  That's why so many of the movies churned out are dull and predictable.  At times, I agonise over my own novel.  I worry that many potential readers will think it's one of those feel-good, sporting stories, and cast it aside in disgust.  I worry that it's not original enough.

This may sound very strange, but when I'm feeling that way, my comfort is Ecclesiastes 1:9-10: What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.  Is there anything of which one can say, "Look! This is something new"?  It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.  I know this is probably taking the verses out of context, but it really encourages me as a writer who sometimes gently panics about the originality of my work and what others will think.  My work is NOT new.  I CANNOT be entirely original.  No-one's work is.  We all gain inspiration from those around us and those who have gone before us.  That's how it is meant to be.  As I read other books, I am learning how to improve in the craft of writing.  I gain inspiration from other authors to put towards my own work.  That doesn't mean I blatantly rip off others' ideas, but it does mean my book is a complicated, mish-mash of inspiration from movies, books, my own life, and the lives of others.  My book will never be original, but it is unique.  My book may remind some readers of other books they have read, but there is still no other book quite like mine.

So, if you're a creative-type, worrying about the originality of your work, be encouraged by Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 today.  Don't try to succeed in a fruitless quest.  I'm sorry if that is strange advice and doesn't sound very encouraging; I have just found it incredibly liberating.  Your work will never be entirely original; it will always be a delightful hybrid of inspiration, but take heart in that there is no other work out there that tells a story the same as yours.


Ronnica said...

Very true!

Iris Flavia said...

Funny thing... just yesterday when passing a book-shop on our regular Monday-City-Trip, I thought about your book!

Yep, your advise is quite right - be unique, learn from others - that´s what life is for, totally new is hardly manageable.