For writers new to the craft, the question of originality often proves a stumbling block. It is the question which can even prompt writers to scrap entire stories in the fear of being called derivative.
But much like all stifling mentalities which affect the ability to write consistently and productively, there is no “quick fix”, regardless of what an online search will tell you. And because creative minds work on a wide spectrum, every individual needs to be able to forge their own style according to what makes them comfortable.
Every now and again, for example, I am reminded of David Lynch and his approach to consuming other media. It sticks in the brain because his approach is just the opposite; he does not concern himself with other media at all.
The reasoning is simple enough to understand – avoiding all the other stuff in the atmosphere apparently allows one to see and create clearly, without feeling trapped by external influences. Almost an idealisation of the “blank canvas”.
It is anecdotes such as this that can drive the burgeoning young writer down a road of joyless imitation. And yes, I see the irony in saying so.
The problem is when a writer, still forming their own style, absorbs information like this and believes it is the way to go. In fact, anecdotes such as this should be seen more as a window into the subject themselves, in this case Lynch, rather than a helpful guide.
In today’s environment, where content is so prolific and vast in scope, can a prospective creator shut themselves off completely from external media? The realistic answer is no. And it’s wrong to expect every creator to work in these ways.
It is possible that extreme approaches can work for the rare few. Lynch’s Twin Peaks, with its mystery in a strange and enigmatic setting, has itself gone on to inspire countless stories over time across various media. But again, it does not mean that the rituals of the few and their fleeting strikes of lightning are anything other than that.
And it is difficult to reject such enticing perspectives, especially when the only seeming alternative is trashing yet another page of potential ideas. But writing is not a practice of pretentious flair and niche solutions, to be put down after a few days; solutions to our problems don’t have to always meet the extremes.
For most of us, it is the opposite of Lynch’s method which will suffice – to absorb as much content as possible, of as varied a nature as possible.
You can pull strands out of everything upon which you happen; you can take issue with the tropes of a text and go on to create something subversive in response.
For example, perhaps opportunistic creators would see that nostalgia is a figurative goldmine, currently being leveraged any number of ways, across many different genres.
Or rather than approaching the task with the mentality of organic building, it can help to focus on subtle touches. If you feel you can inject a unique perspective, then that can provide its own originality – no matter how formulaic the genre.
And even if you look at your initial paragraphs and don’t see much, it can be worth it to simply keep going. To see what you can do with them. Balled up in the trash could be the beginning of a future classic.
But you’ll never know.