Writers like writing about writers. They say write about what you know and it makes sense that if you are a writer you will know all about the writing process. Not only is this pathetically uncreative, its a pretty crappy topic to chose because its already flooding the writing/reading world.
Take, for example, this post.
Disgusting. I can’t believe I got sucked into this. They told me to write about what I know about and now I am practically as boring as every beginner. So let me write about something original. I will as soon as I know exactly what original means.
I think of original as something new. It looks like the dictionary is pretty much on my side: “not a copy or imitation.” No matter what it is whether it is a story idea, a purse, or a life, we want it to be original. I think that being original sounds pretty good until I look at the writing industry today. Another teenage girl falling in love with Mr. Hot-and-Angsty? Seriously? They told me to be original but what is getting published today certainly doesn’t always follow that standard. The market is flooded with the same topics: loves sick teens, how to lose weight, and depressing memoirs. Why do people keep reading this stuff? I’m not so convinced that a new topic is really what up and coming writers should be focused on.
And then your teacher comes along and tells you that there are only ten story lines and a thousand variations.That’s pretty depressing. I would like to read more than ten stories in my life… if possible. Sue me. Is this seriously my fate as a writer? Re-tell stories over and over? Tell people what they have heard a thousand times before and keep telling them that till long after we are both sick of hearing it?
What about my favorites? Shakespeare who changed our language? What about hipster Stoker who liked vampires before writing about them was beating a (un)dead horse? I don’t know about you, but I would really prefer to be the kind of writer that Shakespeare and Stoker were.
Let’s look at Shakespeare. Only one of his plays that I know of was an original story line. Interesting right? It was all about how he told it, his insane power with words. (So basically, if I was Shakespeare I could write yet another Hunger Games wannabe and make it appealing, maybe even fill it with some deep themes. As tempting as that is that doesn’t really seem to be the answer.) During the Victorian Era vampires were already “a thing.” It wasn’t like Stoker was actually all that hipster (sorry to break it to you!). Stoker was brilliant because he captured readers with his new style of writing that uses many points of view and made monsters sexy. (So the answer is get more progressive with the structure of the story until we have un-defined the novel and make it risqué enough to keep people’s attentions.)
Actually, what these authors have in common is an innovative voice. They have an accent that no one has heard yet so everyone wants to know where the heck they are coming from. They were able to talk about people and things that we already knew about. However, we had never seen the story or characters the way that they had seen them. They had an original voice.
Having a similar story isn’t bad. It’s actually the opposite. Sure, we get sick of hearing the same story, but don’t we always want to have that, “No way! You to?” moment? We want to know what other people did when they were feeling the same as us. We want to know that certain struggles have always been; we are not excluded from the rest of humanity. Universal human experience should leave us with stories that encourage solidarity not boredom. We are going to have similar stories (praise God!), but we shouldn’t bore each other. We need to use a unique voice. Perhaps the answer to originality is all in the voice. Good writers have a unique voice.
Just to make this depressing post all over again, everyone has their own voice. I don’t know a single person who is exactly like another person. I’m going to assume that everyone is unique. I definitely don’t want to listen to everyone. So we are right back to where we started. How am I as a writer going to make myself heard?
Someone once told me that the trick to being a good writer is writing about something that no one else can. So…in other words they were just prettying the phrase “write what you know about” and throwing it back at me. They were also saying to make it original. It needs to be your voice.
But it also needs to be a voice that they can’t imagine if they haven’t heard you. You need to be confident in your own perspective to create your own accent so that they’ll wonder where you are coming from? Where are you from/who are you that makes you look at the world like that?
You are probably wondering why I wanted to make you listen to my writing about writing. Sorry. I just wanted to know that originality is not dead. Writing about writing seemed like a good place to start thinking about that. And if you write about writing recreationally, tell me why its valuable? You probably do it better than me and so justify yourself partially. How are you original? The best answer I have to keeping originality alive in writing is writing about something that no one else can write about.
So excuse me while I go figure out what I know about that only I know about.