Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hasn't it All Been Said Before?

Oscar Wilde wrote in his essay, The Critic as Artist, "We are sometimes apt to think that the voices that sounded at the dawn of poetry were simpler, fresher, and more natural than ours, and that the world which the early poets looked at, and through which they walked, had a kind of poetical quality of its own, and almost without changing could pass into song."

This quote reflects my experience as a writer. I've often thought that the words I want to write and the critiques I want to give, have already been said before (and said better). I struggle with the ideas of innovation and originality, and making my writing fresh or my own. If only I'd been born earlier, I sometimes think. Or, if only I'd thought of an idea first.

Yet, Wilde also condones impersonation. "The mere creative instinct does not innovate, but reproduces," he wrote. And impersonate, I do. I try to model my writing after the works of my professors at "K," after writers I admire, such as Jon Franklin, Gabrielle Hamilton, or Sam Sifton, and after my peers.

But at the end of the day, I am left wondering, Is my work authentic? Is my work my own? Is it my voice? How can I even identify my voice, when I'm not entirely sure what it sounds like?

How do great writers emerge if every great writer impersonates? When does the replication become the original? The Critic as the Artist raises more questions than answers for me.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe everything has been said before, but people phase out on the listening.

    To quote the legend that is Tom Evans, he often says "it is better to steal from the masters rather than create your own mediocrity."

    This line should stick out to perfectionists, because imitation is a form of flattery.

    Nice post! It cleared up some of the questions I had too.