“I want to be an original genius”
Posted on 29 November 2013
This is from a conversation I had with a young and ambitious comedian. His name has been changed to Dingus Doohickey, because that’s funnier.
Dingus Doohickey, be careful of running down the “everything must be new” rabbit hole. It can be a dead end. In creative writing there is a saying that goes, “There is nothing new in the avant garde.” You are most likely to come up with fresh material when you are honest about who you are and what your life is like, right here and right now. This moment is new with new challenges. You can also come up with new stuff by looking harder at traditional tools. But I can almost promise you, if you don’t know what went before and don’t have a good grasp of your tools: you will reinvent the wheel.
I actually don’t mind people re-visiting stories and jokes. First, it’s a delight seeing new twists to old material, or even just being reminded of what I liked about it in the first place. Second, you have to remember that old stuff is new stuff to a lot of people. You can have theatrical revivals or remake films precisely because a new generation is not familiar with the stories. How sad if Shakespeare was no longer produced simply because The Globe version is considered the definitive and people felt you shouldn’t mess with that.
From long experience as a creator, a post-graduate supervisor, and a judge for a literary award, Dingus, I would agree that the magic is wonderful when you can find it and especially wonderful when you find it in yourself, but I would caution you not to worry too much about genius and focus more on authenticity. If you worry about genius you will 1) be overly concerned about other’s opinions and therefore, 2) not take enough chances. Whereas if you focus more on what genuinely turns you on, not on what you think SHOULD turn you on because others say it’s genius, you will start finding your authentic voice. That voice will lead you to the magic you’re seeking.
Peace and kindness,