Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Thoughts at Large: I'm a Thief

I realized something the other day as I was working on a story -- a scene I was writing seemed a little familiar.  Not anything blatant, but enough to kind of gnaw at me.  Then I suddenly realized that there had been a similar situation in a Robert Crais book that I'd read months ago.  

Again, it was nothing glaringly obvious.  It wasn't the exact characters doing the exact same things, but man, I could definitely tell where the influence had come from, at least in the setup for that scene.

At first it bothered me.  Here I was trying to create something original, and something I'd read long before had filtered in and come out onto the page.  How could I ever be a decent writer if I couldn't come up with only my own unique, totally original ideas?

I mulled it over for a while, and then thought about how I play my guitar.  I'm not the best player in the world by any stretch of imagination, but I think I have a unique sound.  My tone, phrasing, lead playing, and rhythm chording all sound like me, for better or worse. 

But my style is a distillation of my influences and the many things I've learned how to play over the 35 years I've been plucking a guitar.  Now, if I listen back to something I've played, I might go, "Oh yeah, that bend sounds like David Gilmour; that little riff is definitely Garcia-like; that run comes from Hendrix; that phrase reminds me of Clapton," and so on and so forth.  Each little element seems to come from somewhere else, but somehow, when it's all mingled together, it ends up sounding like me.

Maybe it's the same with my writing.

Each element might remind me of someone else -- some writer whose work I admire and have been influenced by -- but when it's combined into a whole, it will end up sounding like me.  Again, for better or worse, but at least a unique "Chris Fries" style collage of a mingled melange of influences.

So, I confess -- I'm a thief.  

Subconscious at times, and with nothing but respect for my influences, but I'm evidently a hopeless kleptomaniac. 

I hope you don't mind...   

I'll at least try to stir the pot enough to make the resulting stew somewhat original.

“All writing is in fact cut-ups. A collage of words read, heard, overheard. What else?”
—William S. Burroughs

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