Darn it, I've had a bunch of songs stuck in my head since Wednesday.
Believe me, having a bunch of songs stuck in your head is infinitely worse than having a lot of prospective plots bouncing around your mind. The plots, at least, are potential ideas that can later be released in the form of written prose. The songs, on the other hand, are fully realized works that you can't even perform without having to pay some hefty royalties. You can't do anything with a bunch of songs that are stuck in your mind, unless you're patient enough to wait for them to go away.
I think that that's why people who listen to music at work tend to confuse me. How do they manage to come up with completely original work in the face of commercially packaged products, anyway? I suppose that it's fine with regards to noncreative, repetitive tasks like encoding, but what if you're writing a report? Designing an ad campaign? Brainstorming a marketing strategy? I don't get it.
I'm aware that a similar situation exists for writers, though. Every writer almost certainly has a bunch of books by his bedside. Every writer can easily name a bunch of his or her favored authors. Every writer invariably reads.
So, bearing in mind that every writer is constantly surrounded by the works of his or her peers -- and, arguably, greater works at that -- how do these writers manage to come up with new and original stuff? How do we create new concepts when we constantly pelt ourselves with a barrage of older, more established ideas?
There's a theory going around that the anti-plagiarist effort doesn't particularly like, but it's the one to which I subscribe: There are no new ideas, and creativity is simply a matter of putting together a bunch of old concepts in some new combinations.
Just think about it:
- The concept of a leading female character, for example, is most definitely not new. (The Bible makes mention of Deborah, one of Israel's judges; and Esther, who has her own book in the Old Testament.)
- Neither, for that matter, is the concept of a character with an interest in archaeology. (Lovecraft's explored this area, and as long as we're on the subject, so has Spielberg.)
- And characters who are skilled in shooting and marksmanship have long been a mainstay of action-oriented stories. (Zane Grey comes to mind, but come to think of it, so does the Lone Ranger.)
It's fairly obvious, then, that the concept for a certain female tomb raider is an amalgam of multiple established ideas.
While the theory looks sound, however, I can't help but think that it's got to have a loophole somewhere. It can talk about how ideas simply source themselves from other ideas all it wants, but the fact remains that, for everything to have started out in the first place, there must have been an original, primordial idea somewhere.
It's the chicken-and-egg problem, everyone. In the context of the argument, it's obvious that eggs come from chickens, and that chickens come from eggs. But there must have been something that started the entire chain, and the question of whether that something was a chicken or an egg is at the very heart of the matter.
The early scientists come to mind. Where in the world did Isaac Newton get his original notion about gravity? What caused Galileo to suddenly realize the basic idea behind pendulum theory? How did the concept of underwater displacement arrive in Archimedes' mind, a mental impact so sudden that it got him running naked through the streets? It's not as though any of them had any relevant notes or prior references or predecessors or anything like that.
Is it possible for people to come up with completely original ideas when they're sitting in the middle of a hoard of established concepts? If so, how? Why?
Or maybe it's the complete opposite -- maybe we hardly see any completely original ideas nowadays because we have so much exposure to established ones. If anything, that could be why most of the creative productions nowadays consist of various rehashes and recombinations of older stuff.
Or maybe it's an alternative way of looking at the opposite -- maybe it's still possible to come up with completely original ideas, and yet we're just too lazy to do anything but tool around with the references available to us. Maybe we're just content to listen to our downloaded mp3 files (or purchased CDs), and not bother making our own music. Maybe we like suffusing ourselves in the fiction of established universes so much that we don't bother making up our own.
Or maybe we get distracted to such a degree that we can't think straight anymore... which leads us back to the bunch of songs that are still stuck in my head.
Good grief, how do people work straight when Meatloaf's crooning voice hems and haws at their inner minds? The man must have single-handedly made the 80's a case in human distraction.
Then again, it could just be Meatloaf.
Then again, it could just be me.