We all know the phrase. It’s been drilled into our heads since the early 90s. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Certainly you know the green arrow logo (these are my loving stylings in Microsoft paint):
Especially this time of year, with Earth Day looming and everyone getting in the “let’s save the planet!!” frame of mind for a month. (Coincidentally, raise your hand if you remember Captain Planet. Raise it again if you’re now singing the theme song. Keep it up if, as a kid, you felt sorry for the kid who got stuck with “Heart” when you were pretending at recess). I’ll admit, I don’t recycle. Go ahead, throw the aluminum cans you’ve been hoarding. Even though I’ve been beaten over the head with reduce, reuse, recycle since childhood, I never think about putting it into practice.
Maybe, however, that’s a good thing. It seems like people have incorporated this into more areas of their lives than not throwing away newspapers and plastic bottles. I’ve posted before questioning whether there were any original ideas left, but Michael Bourret at Dystel Goderich and editor Molly O’Neil raised a good point today.
They’ve been having a blog discussion on middle grade fiction (while focused on MG, their points are incredibly useful in all areas of writing). Today, Molly brought up the subject of the viral internet and creativity. She called it an “echo chamber” and it got me thinking: have we incorporated reduce, reuse, recycle into writing? Sure, the internet can be a great tool to get your synapses firing and the creative juices flowing, but with trending topics on Twitter and viral videos on YouTube, and with the writing community being as small as it is, are we creating new ideas or recycling old ones based on what’s current?
Molly says “I’m not convinced that the viral internet is an environment that breeds personal creativity—for a few it might, but for others, it might actually stunt creativity.” I tend to agree. I know I have drawn inspiration from blog posts I’ve read and discussions in the writing world I was a part of at the time. Heck, I did it with this post. But where is the line between drawing inspiration and recycling the same old ideas?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly fine to put a new twist on old ideas, or to write something “ripped from the headlines”. The problem I see is when you find yourself in a rut of only discussing the same ten topics or being inspired by the same recycled ideas. For example, I frequent the Young Adult section of the AW forum since I write mostly YA. While I absolutely love being a part of this forum and learn so much from the people there, lately, I’ve noticed the same topics being discussed over and over. “Is Dystopia dead?” “What’s the next big thing?” “What do you think of Dystopias?” “Why I don’t like the Hunger Games” “Love Interest Pet Peeves” “Teen boys becoming more romantic?” “Ditching romance in YA?” These are all current topics being discussed. I’ve taken part in most of the discussions, so I’m not knocking it or anything. I don’t want anyone to misinterpret what I’m saying. Do you see a pattern though? The same basic topics are being recycled.
Molly and Michael implore writers to dig deeper. Go beyond the trending topics and viral videos and memes and explore the depths of the internet (I don’t mean porn, get your mind out of the gutter), and other venues, for inspiration. Oh, and in honor of Earth Day, go eat a dirt cup on Sunday (the 22nd), or plant a tree, or go see Disney’s “Chimpanzee” or something. (I might add that I am totally in love with the Disney Nature movies. Every Earth Day when they come out I am in the theaters, usually crying because they all have sad parts, but they’re so dadgum cute! So far “African Cats” has been the best!).
What are your thoughts? Do you feel inspired or stymied by internet trends?