As we move through the processes of creativity one of the things we will sometimes encounter is unintentional plagiarism. As I wandered through the day yesterday I had a phrase stuck in my head. I wrote the phrase down in my notebook and then, in quiet moments through the day, I played with it – tried in direction formats, tried building around it, tried using it as the kernel of a greater writing. Slowly, it seemed to take form as a lyric. That form is what must have tickled my brain, because I dropped the phrase into Google and there it was. It was a song lyric from a Van Morrison song. As soon as I identified it the rest the song came flowing out.
Inspiration, transformation, and imitation are all kissing cousins. They all move about closely together. One of the risks when you read powerful writers (or listen to them, as in the above case) is that their voice can begin to overwhelm your voice. I had a rather radical thought this morning that I am rolling around in my head. I thought about using my October writing exercise (which starts tomorrow) and combining it with a “seeking my own voice” exercise.
I thought about spending the month of October and not reading anything containing the significance of other voices. No external poetry. No external fiction. No external literary non-fiction. I considered, very briefly, the extreme of trying to not read anything, of excluding the daily paper and the news on the web, but I quickly realized that level of reading abstinence certainly wouldn’t work for me.
I have to read things for work and my profession requires that I maintain an awareness of the developments in my industry and my field. I could conceivably go to that level of isolation from external written influences, but I think that would be too far and I doubt I could sustain it. I am not even sure I can sustain not reading anything of any literary value – but I can make a run at that.
Maybe. I say maybe because even as I contemplate the idea, I can myself entering withdrawal! It may very well be one of those interesting ideas that doesn’t manifest itself. But, it is something I am contemplating if only for the joy of contemplation and a simple fact of math. If I removed from my daily schedule the time I spent in leisure reading, I would generally free up at least an hour, perhaps more, per day for writing. I would briefly still the other voices in my head to allow my own voice to come through. I like that idea. I surely do.