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.


My anxiety is an experience of my absence. The less I am able to assert myself in life the more often I will find myself wishing I had. Anxiety is the experience of forthcoming resentment, of feeling trapped, becoming bored. Anxiety comes from the same place as anger, but as its ghost. Kill off, lose touch with or disavow your anger and you will feel anxious … and anger is there when I disagree. So anxiety arises when I can’t find it in myself, or the opportunity in the world, to disagree. Anxiety is a narrowing of me – a whittling down of me; a meanness. A difficulty. It’s Latin root: angustia. Continue reading “Anxiety”

Emergency Inertia

There’s a part to emerging from a difficult situation that is sometimes overlooked: the inertia that can creep into a life out of a fear of taking risks again. I mean ordinary, everyday gambles over remembering and feeling things. The past can feel too much. Getting closer to someone or something can feel too frightening – and perhaps what makes this most difficult is that the fear I’m referring to is almost impossible to catch hold of. It might simply come upon you like an itch, a sense of wanting to squirm; an instinctive no, or a sense of relief if you move towards it (away from where you might actually need to be: getting to know another person, trying out another way of doing something, or looking back at something you did and realising it wasn’t quite like you’d imagined). Continue reading “Emergency Inertia”