~ Words of Comfort for Writers ~ On Originality

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Writer Wordart (Photo credit: MarkGregory007)

Essentially most bloggers are writers–and as writers we have many fears. I found a passage in Elizabeth Berg’s book, Escaping Into the Open, The Art of Writing True, that I found particularly comforting and thought I would share it with you.

Ms. Berg is a favourite author of mine and I would recommend her book on writing to anyone who wants to plumb the depths of their creativity.

Without further ado, here is the passage that I find freeing:

“….it does happen that writers can end up creating things that are very similar. If you subscribe to the belief that everything’s already been said, that should come as no surprise. But there are a myriad of ways of saying things, which brings me back to the importance of writing in your own voice. Every individual, amazingly, really is unique. Therefore, every individual has something unique to offer. When it  comes to writing, you’ll see the singular aspect of an author made manifest not so much in what he or she says, but in how they say it.”

What do you think ~do you think that everything’s already been said? Or do you agree with Ms. Berg that it is how we say it that is important ~ moreso than what we say?

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68 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I absolutely agree! Everyone has their own unique take on things and will eventually find their own audience who will appreciate their writing. Just gotta stay true to your own style and voice and face that fear.

    • well, you have found your audience and I love your “voice” –it is warm and funny

  2. I love Elizabeth Berg and have read several of her books, but not this one on writing so I’ll have to find it. I completely agree, Lou Ann. We all write posts and sometimes we write about the same thing, but each writer has a distinct voice/style that no one else can mimic. That voice gets stronger the more we write.

    • It does get stronger–we kind of find our voice, don’t we? The book is well worth getting.

  3. I think they’re both true. No we can’t always be original in what we say but that shouldn’t stop us from trying. But if you say something that has already been said it can still sound original because of the way you say it,

  4. Hi Louann. This is a no brainer for me. I believe that everyone has something inside of them that can be expressed only in their own way. So despite the fact that a story has been written before, it can still be rewritten in a style only the new writer can provide.

    • so true–how many times have you attended an event with someone else and they see it totally different than you did — I find this with reporting all the time–when I cover a story, I will see if written up by a different paper and it will sound like a totally different event

  5. I think if you have something to say, you should say it. People worry too much if they are being original or not when they should just be themselves. I’m a believer of the “big story” theory anyways, all stories are just one chapter in a very large book.

  6. Ditto what Brigitte said. Haha!

    Seriously, I don’t think everything has been written – has every piece of music been written? I also agree with Elizabeth Berg. We each have a unique take on things and express ourselves differently. thank goodness for that. :)

    • I don’t think everything has been written either–and we are all unique (whether we like it or not – lol)

  7. Life has unique twists and turns, and when a writer uses these twists and turns in her own voice, it becomes new. Everything has not been written, otherwise it would be like your book in progress, October Again, (sorry, I think I screwed up the title)

    • Always October – but you were close
      yes it is the twists and turns that add a new dimension–what does Sophie think?

      • lol ;)

  8. I agree with the part of your own voice. It is important to find it, utilize it, and manage it. It is what seperates us.

  9. Yep, everybody can put their own spin on a topic. I just write about dogs, cats, natture, etc. and I could not begin to try to copy the manner in which another person writes. I am not smart enough to know how and it would take too much work trying to mimic how another person writes. So – you have my 2 cent answer which probably does not count anyway since I am not a (writer).

    I like how you give your readers something to think about and then of course they want to give you an answer. Smart lady, you are!

    • you are a writer or you would not have written this or your blog–there does not have to be a formal definition of writer–it is how we express ourselves in print-thanks so much for dropping by and really liked the smart lady part

      • I am glad that you liked the smart lady part. Actually that was an easy statement to write. I have been thumbing through your blogs.You are smart because you know how to write and how to reel in your readers so that “they” want to comment. I have learned that a good blogger knows how to write in a manner that asks questions or ends the post with something that is thought provoking.

      • I like to engage my readers–that is actually the only point of my posts most of the time–then I get wonderful people like you dropping by. Took me a while to learn this though. Thanks for visiting–I will be visiting you too–

  10. In full agreement – without voicing our own opinions, we would be a flock of sheep :)

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  11. I don’t think that everything has already been said. There are new experiences and events happening everyday around the world. I also think that you can give 100 writers (or 1000, or 10,000 you get the idea) one single topic and they will each have their own take on it.

    I have to remind myself that is is not so much what I say but how I say it that makes it uniquely me. I will most likely write a post about my children’s Halloween costumes and trick or treating adventure this year and my post will be one of thousands on the topic. It will mean something to me and will carry my voice and that is enough. If people read it and like it then that is icing on my cake of life. :-)

    • could not have said it any better — it is because it is your voice that we read it!

    • could not have said it any better — it is because it is your voice that we read it!

  12. I think it’s true that everything one can think has already been thought about. So it goes to reason the same is true about writing. But with each persons distinct voice it can make the conversation on the subject better and spark a new conversation.

  13. I often read a favorite writer and wish I could write like that. But then I realize that I’ve developed my own distinctive voice that no one else can imitate.

  14. I often read a book and bang my head against the book. Sometimes I do feel like people have told my story and they have told it in a way that I will never be able to tell it. But I have to get over that. Because, as you say, that is the fear talking.

    Frankly, I have been living in a place of fear ever since my computer died. It’s been hard for me to create, because what if it all just disappears again. I can’t believe how much that crash impacted my writing life and my worldview.

    Thank you for this reminder. I need a good spanking is what I need. ;-)

    • I can certainly understand your fear–and I have just got to back up mine–right away–I was having nightmares about it last night.
      I have lost some things while I was writing them up (on deadline no less) and have had to rewrite–but never anything as devastating as what you went through (hugs)

    • renee, I had the experience of my publisher coming to make my computer compatible with his, and it dies. I lost a book of poetry and half the book I was writing so I know how you feel. I went around stunned for days, as though someone had died, or we’d lost everything – not just my words. I actually think we do have to grieve when something like this happens. Nothing I suppose could be as bad as the 19th century writer Edmund Burke taking seven years to write his book, and it disappearing in a house fire. So he had to start again!
      So I don’t think you need a good spanking, but a little emotional TLC

      • Valerie – nice of you to commisserate with Renee–what a nightmare for both of you!

  15. I hate when I write and find myself imitating another’s style or voice. It usually happens when I forcing myself to write for the sake of getting something on paper….I already like your style!

    • I cannot immitate anyone on purpose–it becomes too strained —
      thank you for the compliment- you made my day!

  16. so very true Lou Ann..we all have unique voices while observing the same view. I have read her novels but not this book. perhaps I shall take a look. thanks!

    • It is well worth it. In my view it is even better than her later novels–and I like all her writing.

  17. Voice and style is definitely what distinguishes one writer from another. I actually really like when bloggers write about the same things because it’s interesting to see the way people interpret the subject and talk about it. Through style and voice, we indirectly get to know each other better, which has been one of the many joys of joining this blogosphere. :)

    • I like to see the same subject treated in different ways with different opinions too — that is what makes life interesting. You are write (right)–we get to know each other through our unique “voices”

  18. The notion that everything has already been said depresses me so I don’t adhere to it, but I also agree that it is the ‘how’ things are said that is the real key to orginality. Great post.

    • did you not teach this kind of thing? I agree that how things are said is the key to originality

  19. another great topic, yes i do feel that all has been said but not in the way this each individual can say it, and that’s the goal of creativity.

    a friend of mine with an astounding voice told me she began by singing like singers she admired and found her own individual voice from there. so i remind myself of that when i feel weird about not being “original” ~ all artists got their inspiration from {copied} those who came before.

    there’s a bob dylan documentary that shows this very thing ~ his “friends” on bleecker street in the early sixties are all p*ssed off at him because he ripped off their sound {dave van ronk, the clancy brothers, etc}. then a few years later you have him playing albert hall with everyone saying “no one had ever heard anything like this before!” i’m not saying bob didn’t rip those people off blatantly, but he did become an original.

    • so it takes time and practice and experimentation to find our voices — we have to try things out so we know what makes up “us” — I like your example–it explains a lot

      • yes i believe there are endless *ways* of describing the same thing and, as ms. berg says, it is finding *how* we want to express it that is our journey as artists

      • could not agree more :)

      • it’s an uncomfortable path, this expression thing, but i know it’s so worth it. i’m grateful to those before me who{m} i can copy!

        and btw i feel kind of silly about *starring* words for emphasis, that’s another reminder to myself about writing well, allowing words to have emphasis on their own accord.

        *sheepish grin* heh heh

  20. Great point – I sometimes don’t write something down because I think its been said or done before. But in the end, my blog is for me and a record of my life at home, so I should go ahead and write about it – it will probably sound different than the other guy’s version anyway.

    • that is true–you have your own take on things and your own memories–
      the saying “been there,done that” is so untrue–we never truly know what someone else has gone through

  21. As usual, a fascinating discussion… I love to read the same thing written by different people – it’s always so different! I love people’s voices and their “take’ on things . No-one else ever has the same ‘take’, … even watching the same accident , everyone usually has a different version….
    Such a stimulating post and discussion….

    • glad you found it interesting–it got a lot of feedback–all with different voices

  22. I totally agree. Anyone can say anything, but the importance lies in ‘the voice’ and keeping your own voice is crucial for writers :)

    • finding it and keeping it is essential–most importantly for ourselves, then for our readers

  23. “…how they say it.” As a reader creative similes and metaphors keep me reading and often copy them on end page to remember. But be careful that literary flourish does not detract from the story. Not every noun needs an adj nor every verb an adv. “What they say” too. Fav humor are Dave Barry, Garrison Keillor and Mark Twain.

    • thoughtful comment that all writers should make note of–some good advice here – thanks Carl

  24. Great post and loved reading everyone else’s comments.. That is one of the reasons I like Blogging so much. I get to read so many “voices” and it truly makes for enjoyable reading. Our own true voices are mighty and unique and that is a mighty fine thing..
    Much enjoyed this post!

    • good I am glad you enjoyed it–and all the commenters–it really does add to the whole discussion doesn’t it?

      • :-)

  25. How we say it. Because each one of us has our own unique experience, our own ‘frame’ through which we see the world and ourselves within that world. Blogging is a good example of that. We all sometimes come across an idea, or an event featured on different blogs. However the perspective each blogger gives is different. It is a beauty of human mind.
    Great post!
    Daniela

    • yes, we all do frame things differently depending on our experiences–great point!

  26. Perspective, experience and expression can bring new and different things on board. I’m all for hearing new voices on old songs.

  27. Oh I definitely think there are as many ways to say something as there are to hear it. The trick is to find the person who hears the way you write. ;-)
    Great question!

  28. I think almost everything has been said, but I agree with Ms. Berg; the way you portray something is definitely important. Person A could present an idea in a completely boring way, but Person B can make it out to be the most interesting thing ever!

    • very true – it depends on how you present it -any topic can be dry and boring–but in the hands of some writers it becomes magic

  29. I think much has been said, but there are still a few things out there that need a writer’s voice to bring them into being. And every so often we stumble on those writings and think, “Wow, this is new.” I do like what Ms. Berg has to say, though, that “there are a myriad of ways of saying things.”


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