Originality

Literature has been around for a long time. Reading a book called A Little History of Literature by John Sutherland, I have very quickly realised (as the author himself states) that the history of literature is anything but little. As an aspiring author, this makes me both happy and a little bit… nervous. I love the idea that if I manage to become a successful author one day, I will be able to add something meaningful to literature, to which countless masterpieces have been contributed. Even if my piece of literature may not be anything close to their standards, it would be brilliant to be a part of something so vast that it spreads to nearly every nook and cranny of the world.

On the other hand, I wonder if I will ever be able to write something that will be truly new. It is true, as Sir Isaac Newton put it, that one can see further by “standing on the shoulders of giants”, but nevertheless, each timeless work seems to have something new, something original to it that makes it the masterpiece it is.

Right now, I’m not aiming to create a masterpiece. I don’t think I’m at a level of expertise where I can even begin to create a masterpiece. But participating in NaNoWriMo has led me to wonder this about any piece of writing I create – will anything I ever write be absolutely original? If I write, “The sky darkened as if someone had spilled ink onto it” how will I know whether this simile has already not been worn out? When describing a stormy day, I’m sure that the phrases ‘whistling/howling wind’ or ‘steel grey sky’ have already been used. I’m not insinuating that they can’t be used again, but will this impede any piece from being original?

I don’t know very much about writing yet. I know that imagination, creativity, practice and of course, writing from the heart can take one a long way. But until I can learn about the intricate mechanics of literature in more depth, I guess I will just have to keep writing (whether what I write seems fresh and original or old and dreary) because that, to me, is the best way to learn.

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5 Comments on “Originality

  1. First, you’re never too young, inexperienced or immature to start a masterpiece. You may be too young, inexperienced and immate to finish it. That does not mean you should not start, when it gets tough, put it aside and work on something else, and return to it. Some masterpieces take time to produce.
    I believe you have written a simile. The best writer I’ve seen with similes is George Orwell. He became so good he made entire books similes (allegories). One of his that sticks with me is, I don’t mind development so long as it’s not like gravy on a table cloth.
    My only advice is to use as few words as possible and no adjectives.

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  2. I think masterpieces are so not only because of their originality. It’s the universal nature of their subject/story that make them appealing to a large number of people irrespective of their time or place. When it comes to originality, what also matter along with the originality of expressions/language are the originality of idea or point of view (from what angle you are looking at the subject) and of treatment/style. I guess style includes expressions/imagery etc., but if your can tell your story in a new, original way, it will be more appealing.

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    • Thank you for your advice! I see what you mean about the originality of one’s viewpoint. That is an original way of looking at the idea of originality 😉 Or at least, one I had not thought about myself!

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  3. Pingback: How to Succeed at Failure | Pen and Paper

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