One of the worst mistakes a writer can make is patterning himself after those writers he admires. Instead, writers should study past and present writers for the sole reason of rebelling. That was Arthur Rimbaud’s singular motive.
The pursuit of originality can be a hang up, however. The pull for something never done before can freeze up writers.
J. D. Salinger comes immediately to mind.
It’s my own fear at times, too, and why I recommend writing less…and why I often do not write at all. I’d rather forfeit the opportunity to create something unoriginal and publish it rather than giving into that silly notion of expressing myself.
Nonetheless, nobody is immune to it. I’ve published plenty of crap that is in some way a knock-off of somebody else. Writing original posts is a hard tasks. But you never give up. And you snoop where no one else is.
Douglas Copeland wrote a slim but serious volume on Marshall McLuhan. McLuhan’s big idea was “Environments are invisible.” That you don’t understand what that means is not important. What’s important is how he came to that conclusion.
McLuhan’s futuristic ideas weren’t products of talking shop with aerospace engineers or programmers. He made sense of the world through the study of “arcane sixteenth-century Reformation pamphleteers, the writings of James Joyce, and Renaissance perspective drawings.”
That’s the art of reading wide. And the trick to originality.
But don’t just apply this thought-process to books. Apply it to blogs as well. The main thing is this: read what interests you. And make it different.
Seven Unorthodox Blogs Writers Should Read
Regular round-up of gossip, news, disputes, trends and breakthroughs in the world of upper crust art and culture. Favorite playground for intellectual snobs. No surprise this blog is brought to you by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Co-founder of Wired magazine Kevin Kelley explores technology, the future and our place in it. He’s often at his best when he’s engaging cultural heroes like Robert C. Clark or making predictions about technology, which, as we all know, are never accurate [most predictions, not just KK’s, are incorrect], but fun to entertain.
Speaking of Wired, this blog sends you a lot of articles–but everyone a little prize inside the world of technology and how it’s shaping our lives, entertainment and business. Perfect for reading some of the best headlines this side of the National Enquirer.
James Altucher is a sublime case study of a person who resists description. A technology entrepreneur who reads shelf loads of literary short stories by writers like Raymond Carver. A stock picker who blogs about intimate stories, dreams and ideas, most of which are controversial, like Why A Grenade Needs to Be Thrown at Me and I Want My Daughters to Be Lesbians.
This fifteen-year-old-music site has done what indie music failed to do: resist mainstream. In doing so, it’s quite popular among those who have a taste for the weird because it delivers that eccentric, avant-garde music that’s hiding in the cellars.
My dad was an economist, so that explains part of my fascination with the discipline. The other part is that economics is about human behavior–the good, the bad and the ugly. But you’ll never catch me reading Wealth of Nations or The Road to Serfdom. No. I’m shamelessly interested in the human condition and the dark stories that accompany it and Freakanomics manages to marry the two quite well.
Hugh MacLeod, the author of Ignore Everybody and Evil Plans, is a marketing philosopher and business mystic who draws cartoons on the back of business cards. Really good cartoons. His insights are from left-field and one of the reasons large corporations like Microsoft and Dewar’s hire him.
What blogs are you reading? And why? I look forward to your comments. Brutal and all.