Those of you who follow this blog (all five faithful souls) will have noticed a gap in your life, felt a certain unease perhaps, over the past few weeks. No doubt you will have been asking the question where is WriteontheBeach and her riveting words of wisdom and cheer. Well, I would like to reassure you that WriteontheBeach has not become WashedupontheBeach – it’s just that life, as it so often does, has interfered with my plans and the impending move to the shores of La belle France has become…well…more impending. The sale of my house happened so quickly. I had barely cleaned the oven of its liberal helping of gunk before a charming couple fell in love with place, said “We do” and the race to clear two years of unpacked unsorted unbuggered about with “stuff” was on and, in the process, giving the lie to the words of wisdom scribed in my book Time for Your Life. Ah well, I was so busy helping others to find time for their lives, I didn’t have time to perform the same offices for myself.
Be that as it may (and you may now start to count the clichés) a week ago, I was several thousand vertigo-inducing miles above planet earth staring out of an airplane window idly wondering what would happen if it cracked and whether my somewhat stout corporeal form could actually be sucked out through it (a la some film or other that I once watched) when I noticed the clouds. Soft white, puffy, cotton wool clouds; bubbling up like pristine white mushrooms in the blue sky; twirly like seaside candy floss; a white wonderland world floating above the…er…world; a glittering snowfield punctuated with candysoft moguls. Enough already. Have you any idea how difficult it is to describe flying above the clouds without falling into a crevice of clichés? I spent nearly all the journey trying to think of something original to say about the puffy white stuff and an hour and a half later, after a smooth landing in Carcassonne, I had found precisely nothing, zero, zilch to say that was remotely original.
Then I remembered some of the feedback I’d received over the years about stories I’d submitted to competitions when that treacherous word cliché made its appearance. “Cliché – you should find a more original way to describe this…” sticks in my mind or do I mean gullet?
In the fullness of time, ie walking from the plane to the terminal, this train of thought began to get up a head of steam. Am I a cliché-ridden old hag (rhetorical question thank you)? Do I have an original bone in my body…not that I mean to infer that I’m in any way bionic or the product of an alien planet keen to infiltrate earth with human look-alikes…no I just mean am I capable of original thought…original sin yes, maybe (wait for my memoirs), but original thought, genuine creativity? In the final analysis methinks not.
Then again what is original thought or creativity? Is that what we call genius? In which case I fear I will soon be shown the door of the writers’ room and have my temporary membership withdrawn. However, I comfort myself with the words of Mark Twain:
For substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily use by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral calibre and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing.
Now, having touched base with you all and cast my bread on the waters, I anticipate a debate of ginourmous proportions as to the necessity for originality in the writer’s toolkit. Marks will be deducted for unnecessarily long sentences, over-use of triple dots (…) and, of course, the deployment of clichés with malice aforethought.