“Nothing is original…Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent.”
Jim Jarmusch is an independent filmmaker, creating things like Coffee and Cigarettes, a movie that I vaguely remember falling asleep to once. Though I particularly didn’t find myself absorbed into his creative efforts, I’d consider that movie pretty original. It captured things like subtleties in dialogue and made something as raw as conversation into this tangible (and boring) movie. Normally you see action and adventure or at least conflict, at least something to get the viewer’s attention in order to portray whatever complex thing you have to say on screen. Not Jim, though. He did something different, something unique, and people really took that on and grew a liking for it.
However, the quote above is a snippet from this larger excerpt about how Jim goes on to say that it’s okay to steal things from other artists. I know it sounds bad, but as you can read here, it’s actually pretty insightful.
It also helps back up this point that I am now going to make.
Nothing is original.
Since I’ve put myself on the foundation of being a “writer”, and in my spare time I make videos and whatnot, I guess I could call myself an artist, in a way. I’m really trying not to be that pretentious here. But, as an “artist”, the only cool thing about my passion would be making something new, something engaging, something people want to read or watch or, most likely, criticize.
And I obviously love writing. I love making stories and poems and expressing myself and my feelings to the world in a way that can end up being slightly unique. However, nothing is truly original. I’m inspired by things in my life. From watching a book’s pages move in the wind, to spending time with someone I adore, everything I write is inspired by something else. The style I choose to write in is inspired by recent things I’ve read or things I’ve been planning to try. My vocabulary is taught in school and is then pushed around and added to by books, people, places. Nothing I can compose on paper, or on screen, will ever be truly unique.
And I know the old saying: It’s unique because you wrote it.
But, really, it isn’t. I’m writing in a classic style here. It’s a blog/essay/rant/thing that millions of people have done before. That whole one sentence paragraph thing isn’t mine, the overused parallel structure isn’t something I’ve whisked out of thin air. Nothing besides a tiny bit of Kylie flair differentiates my 3 view blog post from the countless others across the internet just like it.
Now, looking at Jim’s quote at a different angle, it can be proved wrong (and then proved right again because no argument can be that simple).
There is something that stands out to me when I think of originality. About a year ago now I happened to stumble upon something that really changed my outlook on writing. It was a poem:
Aram Saroyan, my favorite poet, created that poem above. He is known for being this revolutionary in concrete poetry, making one word poems that weren’t meant so much as to be read, but rather looked at. His sentences weren’t prose, but a picture on a page that held more than verbs and nouns, and signified something unique to his era. He actually, I believe, created something authentic, something original.
Aram is this representation for me of what is new, what is actually original. His poetry inspires me to strive to do something different, to try and create something idiosyncratic.
Withstanding, I don’t think I’ll ever be the revolutionary in anything. I don’t think I can convey everything I want to in something as simple as words. Even video and other forms of media can be limited and the effect I want to make just isn’t achievable. I admire what both Aram and Jim have done in their perspective fields of expression, however as groundbreaking as they were even they weren’t completely original.
It’s a paradox, maybe.
Originality is subjective. Henry David Thoreau, my favorite philosopher, didn’t create his ideas about society and values out of thin air. He actually mentions in his writings how fond he is of Homer and how everyone should be required to read the Iliad, or something of that nature. His beautiful prose is a combination of taught language, read literature, personal experience, and then, at the very end, sprinkled with that old Henry pizzazz. The length of time something has been around doesn’t directly show how original it is. And I think many people don’t really understand this concept, hence all pretentious people raving about classical music. Even Homer probably gathered his original thoughts from other people and experiences and
I’m guessing you get the point now.
Originality is subjective. And though it may not truly exist, and I may not become any sort of revolutionist in terms of writing or film media, at least I’m being an… “Artist”. I’m creating something new out of a bunch of other ideas and things that have happened in my life. I may not be completely content with that, with the fact that nothing I do will have any huge impact in the world of writing or otherwise, but at least I’m taking these ideas and adding the Kylie flair. It’s really all in the way you look at it.
Nothing is original.
And even when you see an original idea, it’s just another one taken, diluting the sea of authenticity.