Monday, March 17, 2008

Derisive originality

Despite my hatred of word murderers I still have a tendency to play with meanings, often to my own detriment. Derisive originality is one such toy.

Originality, as the creation of a new or primary thing, cannot be called bad. It is, by necessity of our situation if nothing else, inherently good.

That said, 'originality' is a damaging ideal and one that I find more reason to hate then to love. I sometimes enjoy using 'originality' in a derisive manner, to refer to something that is sub-standard or unworthy of my consideration. I did not realise see anything amiss in this tendency until I used it outside of the writerly context and found myself an object of ridicule. Or, to be more precise, I was accused of being a communist. My opinions of communism are varied but that is not the issue at stake. The point highlighted the negative aspects of both communism and my apparent view. Conformity. Conformity, of course, is a very bad and nasty thing, especially when created at gunpoint.

Oddly enough this was precisely my point. Originality, innovation, this is conformity. It is not conformity in its denotative value, but in application. It also seems strange that we would become original at gunpoint, considering this is not a communist state and no one is holding the gun. But such is the case. We, we as writers and we as students and we as human beings, are told repeatedly that we must be new and different and shiny. And if we are not? Then we are not good enough, and we are not living up to the standards of society, and we are in general degenerate.

When I call someone 'original' in a snide and derisive manner I am saying that instead of doing what they wanted to do they allowed this invisible gun to control their actions. Such people do not follow their natural inclinations and abilities. Instead they listen to that incessant whispering which tells them over and over what is acceptable.

I shall speak as a writer because that is what I know. It is not acceptable to write about elves. It is not acceptable to discuss idealism. It is not acceptable to have heroes, and it is even less acceptable to have villains. Such things are clich├ęs. Over done. Dead (because you shot them?). You must go somewhere else, you cannot stay here. Do not write of fairyland; make up your own world instead. Do not write about elves; make up an alien race instead.

True, writing of elves is not new. True, it is difficult to do it well. That does not matter. What matters is that I want to write about elves and I do not care if I am shot in the dead because I do not believe that they gun even exists. I mean, an invisible talking gun? Come now, be rational.

If you are truly desire to create that world, to create those people in every loving detail, to make them your own, heart and soul, then that is originality. That is how I feel about elves, though I do not create them. If it is, however, not the desire to explore a strange land breathing under purple but merely the compulsion to be original then you are dishonest. If you are not dishonest, if originality is the only thing that you love and live for, then you are truly a sorry creature. Those who pursue art for arts sake I respect: those are called artists. Those who pursue originality for its own sake well deserve my contempt because they deny themselves.

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