Originality (Micromanifesto No. 4)

We all copy in order to be original. I don’t come into the world with a capacity to conclude: ‘I think therefore I am’. Long before that becomes possible some hopefully intelligent, loving people teach me, a child, I’m an ‘I’ who can think, and who is.
     So forget tedious debates over what’s hotly new and what’s not, and think about how you used to play. Melanie Klein thought children played out games that illustrated their lives; Freud recognised that as adults we act out tendencies we aren’t remembering as thoughts (why do I always make the same mistakes, etc), until we start thinking about them.
     Originality is something that occurs out of an awareness of what I’m doing and a faith in something I can’t see on my own: my signature in the world. A thought that someone’s listening; an urge to leave trace of me that you’ll gather if you meet me, that indefatigably Tom-ish thing about Tom Tomaszewski, which I can never know as well as you will. Of course there’s the me you’ll never be able to know, too – and the you I can never know.  That’s a lot of unknown.
     If I think about writing like this there are some writers whose force I can pick up off the page as keenly as if they are breathing in my face. They feel original to me. Ones who leave me cold, don’t. Perhaps they are the ones who only imagine the sound of their own voices.


  1. Everything begins with repetition; so relax and look at something by somebody else. You’ll be strikingly original in no time at all (well, maybe).
  2. Postmodernism is always crashing the same car.  I hesitate to invest in that word, it’s so uninspiring. People who believe in it (who may also believe in unicorns) have trouble with originality. Lyotard, however, was an extraordinarily original thinker. What a voice.
  3. Just do something.
  4. If you’re making something and you want it to be original try making it for someone in particular; someone you know really well.

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