The Search Continues
Jane Smiley believes that the history of the novel is essentially a history of man turning his attention inward. It’s pretty hard to argue with that. Despite all our exploration, to mountains and across oceans and eventually out toward the stars themselves, all journeys begin and end in the same place.
This is something we hear so often and in so many different ways that it becomes difficult to hear it fresh, the same way a cliché, once powerful, withers from overuse. Yet just because something has been often repeated doesn’t make it any less true. This is one of the great challenges of writing. I believe it was Kurt Vonnegut who thought there were only seven types of stories. True or close enough, but certainly there’s a lot of recycling that goes on.
No matter. Everything you’re going to share with your readers has to pass through you first and no one has ever been you before. This may not seem like enough when you walk into a bookstore and consider the volume printed every year and try to hear your original voice within that din—but thinking this way is like trying to plan your marriage before you’ve met your spouse.
Almost everything I have written in this blog I have read or heard somewhere else—not word for word, but at core. I am endlessly influenced. But nothing anyone else says truly makes sense to me until I have found my own way of saying it. And so I say it in my way and look up and realize what I have said is actually slightly different from what that other person said—and voila, I’m original.
And that is all originality has ever been—someone translating what they have heard before into their own language. Another good reason for journeys to begin and end in the same place. We are all searching within ourselves to understand what is outside ourselves, and what we discover may send another explorer searching to understand for themselves.