An Original Essay

Hannah Lamb-Vines
Jan 21 · 4 min read
Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash
  1. There are no original ideas. There are only new ways to say the same things.
  2. There is a certain canon within, the books by which I define myself, layered like the rings of a tree. As I grow older I add rings of books to my internal shelf. If I were to remove the books until I reached the innermost ring, would I find the single book to which my self is tethered?
  3. Or would I find, instead, the first commercial my wide eyes received?
  4. At a career fair I meet reps for ad agencies. “Everything we do,” they claim, “stems from a narrative. How do you feel,” they ask, “about narrative?”
  5. “Story seems to say that everything happens for a reason and I want to say, No, it doesn’t.” David Shields, Reality Hunger.
  6. We’re born, we breathe, we die. This is the only narrative. It’s been the only narrative since the matter that makes us up began to mindlessly divide itself. There is no new way to say it. I would rather take an X-ACTO to the pages of a National Geography, turn them into something they weren’t always. With images, sometimes, there is something new to say.
  7. I watch Youtube videos made by teenage girls. At first, I don’t notice a narrative. Girls baking cakes and talking to the camera, or putting on makeup, or driving around. Girls answering questions from their fans. Sometimes, girls telling stories. Once, a girl filmed herself while she told a boy over iMessage that she had a crush on him, and he said he liked her back. Girls who had been fans of each other online met In Real Life and became best friends.
  8. Everything is a narrative. There was no cake, and then there was a cake. A beginning and an end, with a little bit of middle. But if everything is narrative, and nothing is not narrative, then is narrative anything at all?
  9. Girls sold sweaters. Girls sold brushes. Girls sold sneakers. Girls sold pallettes. Girls sold stickers. Girls sold stories. Girls sold merch.
  10. I’ve been involved with it — capitalism. We’ve all been involved in it, even when we’ve tried not to. We’ve claimed to be doing something for the love of it — we did do it for the love it, but we’ve known that money has to come from somewhere. Money has to come from somewhere.
  11. I like to repeat things. Editors like to remove my repetitions. “It looks like a mistake,” they claim, but it is never a mistake.
  12. Advice from David Shields (Reality Hunger again): Listen carefully to first criticisms of your work. Note carefully just what it is about your work that the critics don’t like — then cultivate it. That’s the part of your work that’s individual and worth keeping.
  13. If there are no original ideas, what is the point of saying anything? He says what I mean; why bother saying it again?
  14. Just say it. Say it your way. Say it, but more. Say it, move on, come back to it. These are the things you do over and over again to make an idea live on a page.
  15. There is nothing to see here.
  16. I was always envious of the draw-ers. The draw-ers were the kids at recess with the big circles around them. People loved to watch the drawings come alive on the page, loved to look at them once they were completed. Nobody wanted to watch me write, and nobody wanted to read what I had written when it was done, because nobody wanted to read.
  17. You’re being dramatic. Your friends wanted to read what you wrote. What can I say? I am dramatic. I am depressed, anxious. You feel…big,” a therapist said, and I took the compliment even though that wasn’t how it was intended. This is what makes me who I am. This is what makes me a writer.
  18. Is there a single writer I love who doesn’t (at least sometimes) feel alone, ignored? Is there a single writer out there who doesn’t circle the void?
  19. Better question: might there be something original within the void?
  20. When I design, I don’t need a circle around me. I love to watch the designs come alive on the screen.
  21. Topics included in the 900+ journal entries from the last three years: agency and astrology, real life witch hunts, mental and physical and emotional indulgence, secrets in the age of social media, my dog, the relationships between love and responsibility, magical routines and physical rituals, dreams, the seasons, and my family. None of these topics are original, yet I still have things to say about them.
  22. There is nothing original in this essay. There is nothing original inside me. My core self is the same as yours: cells dividing and dying. The only difference is how I say it.
  23. The only difference is how I say it.