(Image inspired by Quote Investigator: Originality Is Undetected Plagiarism)
Originality. It’s a word that is used as the highest song of praise or the sharpest dismissal of any creative work.
The modern age is obsessed with the idea of what is and isn’t “original.” More than once I’ve heard it referred to as “the cult of originality,” and I feel there is no better description.
To be completely honest, I think the whole thing is ridiculous.
Anyone who knows me can assure you: I’m a contrary person. I don’t always mean to be, but I often find myself at odds with common perception.
This is no exception when it comes to the craft of writing and storytelling: unsurprisingly, I find myself in direct opposition to a lot of popular opinions. At its core, art is subjective, so this is to be expected. I’m not bothered by their existence, or even their prevalence.
However, I do feel that the other side should get its say. And I intend do do just that.
Every now and again, I will voice my contrary opinion in this series and do my best to give a less common perspective its fair shake. Basically, I’m playing the devil’s advocate.
It’s a fine job, if I do say so myself; he always keeps his promises, so long as you read the fine print.
I’m always surprised to hear that some people write in complete silence. This has always sounded a bit like sensory deprivation to me. More than perhaps anything else, I require music to write.
In a lot of ways, music is one of my greatest influences; not only do I need it when I actually sit down to draft and edit, but it’s a cornerstone to the very conception of nearly all of my stories.
So, I’m a writer, at least by the basic definition of the word. I’ve even kept to steady writing schedule so far.
But why in heaven’s name am I bothering with a blog? Shouldn’t I be working on my manuscripts, not piddling away my precious time on the internet? And why on earth should anyone listen to me?
Well, I can answer the first two questions, at least.
This is a subject just about everyone has weighed in on. From Chuck Wendig to Matthew Reilly, the consensus seems to be simple:
If you write, you are a writer. There is no “aspiring.”
Pretty damn good advice, really.
But there’s a problem. Usually, there is one reason for a writer to be inclined to call themselves “aspiring”: they don’t have something published, or (even more likely) a finished final draft. Or maybe not even a finished first draft.
So, there is a looming inevitability for every writer who forgoes calling themselves “aspiring.” It comes in many forms, on a sliding spectrum of well-meaning interest to outright malice. And it usually looks something like this:
“Oh? You’re a writer? Can I read your work?”
For those of us who only have unfinished or unpolished drafts, this question is the closest thing to verbal evisceration I’ve ever come across. And let me tell you, I’ve been well acquainted with quite a few personally-tailored cutting remarks in my time.