Thus Dies Originality

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.

Ironic, huh?

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.

Doesn’t everyone?

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.

Sure.

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.

 

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Shakespeare Without the Words

Isn’t that like saying Shakespeare without the reason he is Shakespeare?

Deutsch: Shakespeare Denkmal Sommer 2004 in Weimar

The Word Wizard

Ok, words may be feeble vehicles for carrying the full wieght of human passion but if you think about it, even people are feeble vehicles for carrying the full weight of human passion. We have so many feelings, so many values, so many experiences and we just want to show them to others somehow. The funny thing is, we don’t just struggle showing ourselves to other people but to ourselves as well. (And that’s when we get great songs like this.)

But words are powerful. Words on paper can change a persons life. Yes, in the sense that fiction can tranform our ideas but also the fact that paper contracts bind us in real ways that we don’t often even think about. Although I do rant about the Top Five Reasons I Hate Being Literate. The point is that words are really important.

I think Shakespeare is powerful because of his control over words. He can manipulate twisty turns of double meanings while keeping an internal rhythm which captures the hearts of the audiences even if they can’t define the rhythm. He is able to capture human passion,” Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” but he makes our cries and rants beautiful because he has not only captured human emotion but tied that to artistically stunning sounds.

Macbeth Consulting the Vision of the Armed Hea...

I wonder if I ranted in iambic pentameter if it would be more effective?….

What is the point of saying all this? Making Shakespeare “accessible” is running a huge risk of dumbing him down to the point of being worthless. His words are hard but people are hard to and sometimes struggles are worth it, when there is something so wonderful complex that you are trying to figure out. Struggling thorugh Shakespeare has proven to help your brain (duh), it gives you a sense of satisfaction, and it opens up new ways of understanding…not just understanding the broad concept of humanity but hopefully yourself as well.

Sketch of William Shakespeare.

Is dumbing him down fair to either him or the readers?

 

So the question becomes, is Shakespeare worth translating? The sublties of words can get marred when passed to a different medium. Tranlations of words always fall short. Is he worth dumbing down so kids can understand the basic story line before they can understand his tricky early modern english?

What do you think?

You Know You’re an English Major When…

1. You cringe when people say that you did good. You have to repeat, you did well, it’s well!

2. You read with a pencil in your hand.

3. You know how to spell seperate….haha, you didn’t think I was really going to do that to you, did you? Separate. There:)

4. You prefer papers to tests…but maybe that is just a universal thing.

5. Too much of your paycheck goes to books

List of titles of works based on Shakespearean...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

6.You use Shakespearean insults (or at least really witty one’s in hopes that people will take a little while to create a comeback)

7. You’ve read Shakespeare out loud in a very dramatic fashion.

8. You have to read the book before the movie because the book is always better.

9. When ever something really cool, weird, or just anything in general happens you immediately grab paper/pencil because it gives you a story idea. Even when you listen to a song or music, you have to give it a backstory.

10. And finally, in the end of The Dark Knight Rises (SPOILER) you totally recognized the quote in the end and how all those awesome themes of self sacrifice and becoming a better man tied together..so beautiful! sniff!!

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Want more of these kind of thing? Check it out: http://www.thecampuscompanion.com/2011/01/25/you-know-youre-an-english-major-if-part-2-of-a-series/

PS There may have been some grammar/spelling errors in this blog (embarrassing!) and if so I apologize!:P

Literature: What does it mean/matter?

What does it mean??

Does it matter what it means?

I think we all have a general idea of what literature is, right? Lets list some criteria:
-Printed Word

-Published

-Created by an writer who was pretty good

Ok, that’s nice. But that includes pretty much everything including soap operas and magazine advertisements. If we are talking about the great literary works, we are going to have to get better definitions. So lets add some criteria.

-Has literary quality that is great enough to stand the test of time

-It is a piece of art that holds intrinsic truth and beauty on some level

So that just got a whole lot deeper. And the question arises: is this definition just a little subjective? Does it means that we as readers decide what is literature or not? After all, we get to decide what is art right?

I would disagree. That word “intrinsic” means something. I think certain things, like a sunset, just are beautiful, there isn’t a debate. Some people might like certain styles then others and some people like certain books more than other. BUT it does not take away from the beauty of the object. Also, some things are true. Objectively. I exist. (I promise). And authors can capture a piece of that in their writing.

This was long thought to be the only portrait ...

He did:)

The next questions: Why does it matter? Or does it?

In a certain sense, I don’t think it does. What people call “it” (literature or not), it doesn’t really change what it is. (Just don’t call 50 shades of gray literature and I will be happy!) Shakespeare would still be a genius even if we called his works something less then literature. Just like a rose by any other name…ok, that’s just cliche. Anyways, I think that the naming of something doesn’t matter in a way. What does matter is how we approach it.

English: Old book bindings at the Merton Colle...

Aren’t they just beautiful!

Literature is a title given to great works. Those works would still be great whether or not I called them that, but I think that having a certain title, a certain amount of respect for things that deserve it, is a good thing. So I am all for promoting a good understanding of literature.

I’m also all for calling them “The Classics.”

Happy Reading!!:)