Everything is derivative. I can’t speak for other writers–but it’s been painfully obvious to me for a long time now that there hasn’t been a truly original idea in our little garden since the snake offered Eve that apple. Every literary idea flows from that moment (metaphorical or not–you pick), that image: greed, love, desire, lust, remembrance, betrayal, the possibility of forgiveness and redemption.
Before we sent Pomegranate to preschool, I could trace the origins of everything she said, every expressed thought or action. I could trace her words and ideas to the books we read to her, the television programs she watched, the people she spent time with, the conversations we had. But once she was away from us for just a few hours a week, she started using new words and acting out new frustrations. I felt her slipping away from us then. She was no longer just an extension of the two of us, but was on her way to becoming her unique self. She was constantly adding new information, building on what she already had (as she still does).
I don’t know about you, but I get overwhelmed with information. It doesn’t help that I often forcefeed it to myself by following random paths on the Internet an hour or two a day. Sometimes I think my brain cannot hold it all–actually, I know it can’t. I have a terrible memory for things I don’t work hard to remember. But it’s all there in my brain, somewhere. If I’ve seen it, it still exists in my head, informing my thoughts in some small way.
I used to worry a lot about writing stories that reminded people of stories they’d already read. When critics thought they were being clever by dismissing elements of Isabella Moon as being too like the Julia Roberts vehicle “Sleeping With the Enemy,” it always made me laugh. I think I’ve seen all of fifteen non-consecutive minutes of that film–and, oh, I’m sure it was the first story that featured a woman on the run from an abusive husband or lover. My ideas are the sum total of every book or film or treatise or cereal box or parental lecture or lover’s entreaty (See, I repeated the word “lover” from the last sentence, built on it, used it in a similar way: it echoes. ha!), or great painting or photograph I’ve ever taken in. But it’s my duty and my pleasure to put all that stuff through the unique filter that is me, and, I hope, produce something that has a pleasing sense of newness about it. That’s what I worry about now.
But don’t take me too seriously–All this is to simply introduce my plan to share with you (over the next few weeks) some of the many things which I believe influence my writing. I’ll toss a brave guest or two into the Handbasket, too. (Hope they won’t be lonely now that Octoberguest! is long gone.) I wouldn’t want you to think I’m just navel-gazing!