As I sit here watching the cursor blink at me relentlessly, I find myself struck once again by the possibility that my own personal hell will be an empty word document and an incessantly blinking cursor, forever blinking…*blink*…*blink*…*BLINK*.
Is there anything more torturous than an empty page? So cripplingly full of possibilities?
When Mark mentioned he was looking for guest bloggers, as I promised yet again (Sorry Mark!) to try to make good on my intentions, I could already hear my brain screaming two questions…
- What exactly is a blog?
- What the hell can I possibly say that hasn’t been said before, more eloquently?
Sidestepping the former in favour of hurling myself at the latter, in what is an entirely self-serving search for truth, I find myself trying to accept the unpopular answer of “nothing”. Not a damned thing.
Originality is over.
So often I find myself dismissing a project before I’ve even started it because it must have been done before. Or worse, I find myself dismissing a project partway through following this conversation, which I have at least three times a year:
“Oh, you’re a writer? What are you writing?”
(This question, whilst well-intentioned, tends to throw me immediately into total confusion as I’m not the most organised writer and summarising something when I don’t know myself yet what it is can present a bit of challenge. Not that I don’t appreciate the interest but nothing makes you feel less like a writer than being unable to express a basic concept in a coherent sentence!)
“[insert incredible but unoriginal idea here]”
“Oh great! Like [such and such]?”
Within about 30 seconds I have usually dismissed my entire project as unoriginal and therefore unworkable but the truth is, on some level of course, they’re right. It probably is “like such and such”. It will have been done before.
It takes my fellow writers (specifically Mark Hayes and Amy Wilson most frequently, usually of a Thursday night, along with the other Writers’ Group ne’er-do-wells) to remind me that that is, in fact, okay.
There really isn’t any originality left to be had; in all the history of humankind it would be a little arrogant of me to even imagine I could possibly come up with an entirely original thought.
Say it with me,
“You are not original”.
I find this difficult to accept as a seeker of quirkiness – I’ve done the “I’m so original” goth phase, the emo phase, the hippy student phase, the young professional phase, the brief 1950s phase and have arrived, to the eyes of the world or even just in my own estimation, at my authentic self. That, I am told repeatedly by others wiser than I, is the key…authenticity.
My next question being of course, what’s the difference?
A subtle but important one; there are a huge but finite set of components that can be combined to produce a story. Any one of those, or likely any combination of those, one can most likely cry to the unrelenting and uncaring sky “HAS BEEN DONE BEFORE”. (See also: “monkeys” and “Shakespeare”).
Authenticity rests not in the content, but the voice of telling, the interpretation, the personal flair, the expression. And that is wherein lies the beauty of writing. It doesn’t have to be an entirely original story and the sooner one learns to accept that, the sooner one can get on with writing it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we all run out and start unashamedly plagiarising anything and everything – intentionally paraphrasing someone else’s story would be unsatisfying at best.
But what I am saying is…What am I saying?
Don’t get stressed out about it! Chances are you don’t have something entirely original – but what can’t be taken from you nor copied convincingly unintentionally or otherwise from elsewhere, is your authenticity as a writer, that is to say your voice. And the only way that voice will be heard is if you stop worrying about the originality of the thing and simply write it.
In conclusion, allow me embrace my unoriginality by reiterating the one piece of advice I hear again and again…the only way to be a writer is to write (this piece of wisdom brought to you by CG Hatton).
To quote my wise friends, it’s about authenticity, not originality, so just write it!
Your authenticity will shine through – let that be enough.
About J L Walton (by Mark)
J L Walton is ‘a colourfully maned animal lover with formal degrees in French, History and ridiculous fashion choices…’ She is also the author of the short stories ‘Automatic Update’ and ‘Guttersnipe’ in the Harvey Duckman Presents anthologies. The first of which received the ‘Hayes‘ award for ‘making the reader never dare to play Sim’s again‘ and the second received the award for the category ‘She should turn that into the first chapter of a novella , if not a full novel, how dare she leave it hanging there, damn her, damn her I say…‘ ….
In between playing piano, gaming, collecting odd cats, and reading anything she can get her hands on provided people never want the books back in once piece, and being badgered by writers to Beta read their novels, she is working on something…
We have no idea what this something is….
We look forward to it immensely…
- You can find out more at 6e.net/jlwalton/
- And follow her on twitter @JLWaltonWriting
- And on instagram /jlwaltonwriting/