I was once asked what my influences are when I write and I had to stop and think about it. Sure, there’s an inner desire to emulate those things that led you to paint, draw, or write but as far as influences go I was at a loss.
And then it hit me.
It’s everything. Everything that I choose to envelope myself in, blanket my life with – those things that make me laugh, cry, smile, and yearn for. But it’s more than what I actively consume. It’s not some reincarnation or interpretation of the stories we’ve heard once before but it’s also our experiences. Every ounce of heartache and joy that we can muster, those are the things that we’re enchanted by and try to recreate with our own vision in mind. It’s one thing to read and rewrite the images, sounds, and smells that some author has created but that can only be a cheap forgery – and while it’s true that we borrow and even steal from others in that regard, true originality is finding your own answer for the smells of autumn, the blinding light in a dark room, and the deafening roar of a crowd chanting in unison.
Michelangelo didn’t seek to make his interpretation of a statue of David but he sought to create his interpretation of David – and there is an important distinction. It would be naïve to say that we don’t take from others, that we don’t, in a way, stand on the shoulders of giants. But the only question is – the giants have built their way up to that level. Do you stand on their shoulders and build up or down?
Copy and you will surely be on the path to creating a lesser version of a greater work. However, should you find it within you to borrow and originate, you could find yourself on the steps towards ascension, to be acknowledged among the names of those in the upper echelons.
It’s a patchwork of stimuli, emotions, and moments that interweave and form the framework of our being. Since, without our individual differences and opinions, how would anything be unique from its predecessor? Without this element, everything is stagnant, unchanging, and stale. Don’t write Huckleberry Finn, if I want to read a book by Mark Twain, I’ll read Mark Twain. I don’t want you to tell me what someone else was trying to tell me. I want you to tell me your message.
But that doesn’t answer the root question: why do we embark on these creative endeavors?
It’s because we are a collection of experiences and influences. We’ve been molded by these events and now we’re realizing our potential to touch the plane in which they exist. It’s our way of connecting to the past, finding a common ground that can transcend time and space as a way of convening with those we’ll never have a chance to meet. This desire, I believe, is in the hearts of all of us who have this creative gene.
Simply put, we create art as a way – the only way – to express humanity. Unlike a chemical compound, the human heart doesn’t fit into a test tube: we’re as much an ethereal race as we are a temporal one. For as much as we can prove our existence in a physical sense, an equal amount of proof of who we are lies in what we know and feel. Years from now a robot may be built to look and sound like us but there lacks a soul, or an undeniable essence, that can’t be mechanically or chemically manufactured or produced.
It’s for this reason that no number of books collecting dust in libraries nor overflowing museums will deter us from being driven to create. It’s because we’re not looking to prove anything to anyone, we’re simply leaving a record of ourselves and of everything and everyone who has impacted us. A kaleidoscope of who we’ve become from our earliest moments to the finishing paint strokes or paragraphs of our art. It’s a timeline of who we are at each point in time, a progression of change and a reflection of the good and the bad.
It’s because in every creative endeavor we make there is one truth that’s hidden beneath the surface and that is:
This is my story.