Some Things Can’t Be Duplicated

Late night conversations never go the way I expect them to. A couple nights ago, I had one that reminded me of someone I hadn’t thought about in a long time. I hope you’ll forgive me this little stroll down memory lane. 🙂

Years ago, almost a decade now, Serendipity veered me off my la-dee-da straight and narrow to cross paths with a singularly fascinating man. He wasn’t just smart, he was wise–a quality not easily borne by people so young. Brilliant man. Beautiful writer. He used to keep this blog where he would document his travels and experiences. Nothing special on the face of it, but his style was so unique, he could draw you into the scene, make you feel so many complex things you never would have expected them. He would describe a two-hour flight, and a conversation with the woman sitting next to him, and at the end of it you were bereft, yearning for some sort of continuation, a full novel, a lifetime as rich with meaning and emotion as those two hours had been. He wrote and treated his life the way novelists do their most cherished fictional characters.

This man had an incredible impact on my writing. Unfortunately, as happens in life, our paths diverged again and we fell out of touch. It is unlikely he will ever read this, but if he does, I’d want to thank him. He didn’t just change the way I write, he changed the way I perceive and think. In the most unassuming way, he taught me by example what is truly important in life.

He told me about a time when someone had callously stolen one of his tales and published it as their own. I was livid on his behalf. I told him, “I hope you sued the hell out of them!”

He replied simply: “No, I didn’t.”

After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I asked him why. Why on Earth would he have let something so personal and intimate be taken and bastardized, put out for public consumption without his say so?

Now, we were discussing this through an IM program, but I could imagine him shrug when he said it didn’t matter to him. He said the story was just that, words on a page, nothing more. The experience itself was too deep to ever be ripped off. The person who’d stolen from him had only taken an echo, without any understanding of what had truly transpired. That event, every nuance of feeling, every sight, sound, touch, taste, thought, and emotion, belonged to him alone, and no one could ever touch it, corrupt it, or take it from him.

I quietly shook my head, baffled by this, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. I have always had one foot in Dreamland. From as far back as I can remember, my memories are interspersed with events that only transpired in my head. They are just as rich, just as poignant as the memories themselves. I know the people I imagine. I know how they look, the sound of their voices, their drink of choice, those annoying little habits that drive people mad. I know what makes them laugh, what makes them cry…

Who else but me would know all these things? How could they possibly hope to capture the true essence of a person without knowing them first? They can’t. And that’s the bottom line. The reminder of that, of my long lost friend, and the wisdom he’d shared, made me smile. The story had been related to me before my first book ever got published and, as a result of the understanding I’d gained from it, I’d never been worried about my books being replicated. Being able to put into words why that is so, however, is a new development, and one most welcome.

Until next time! 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Some Things Can’t Be Duplicated

  1. jamie

    Hi, I was Googling “some things can’t be duplicated” and came up on your site. I agree with this. I’ve been on Prozac since last summer and have recently read “Prozac Nation.” I then got the idea to write about my depression and Prozac experience, but now I feel the definitive book on the subject already exists. Is it wrong for me to want to write my own? Everyone tells me my story is different, but I can’t seem to convince myself of that. I feel what I would do would just pale in comparison. As far as I know no one else has written about being on Prozac, so should I even bother?

    • Alianne

      Hi Jamie,

      When it comes to personal experiences, you’re the only one who can write about what happened to you. It’s not about the “definitive” work, it’s about your story. You’re not writing a scientific paper, you’re writing something that’s personal to you, from a perspective no one else has. When you look at it that way, your book will actually be the “definitive work” on your experience. I think, if it’s something you really want to do, you should definitely write it. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, and good luck with your book!

  2. jamie

    http://mackcollier.com/so-you-want-to-write-a-book-heres…/
    “3 – Find 3-5 books that you think are similar to your idea. For each book, you need to explain what your book offers that the competing title misses. And try your best to pick newer titles. If you propose that your book idea will be competing against 5 books that were all written in the mid 1990s, that tells the publisher that your idea is dead, otherwise someone would have written about it in the past 15 years!”

    More proof that my Prozac experience book idea is a bad one. Not only has the most definitive book on the subject been written, but it was wriiten more then 20 years ago!

    • Alianne

      Hi Jamie,
      From what you’re telling me, it sounds like you’re looking for someone to talk you into writing this book despite yourself. I can’t and won’t do that. Writing, especially on a topic this personal, isn’t something you should go into on a whim. It’s not an easy undertaking to write any book, especially one that intimate, and you need to possess a strong internal drive to carry you through the difficult parts. It won’t be just getting the book on paper, that’s only the beginning.

      If you don’t feel that drive (and please don’t take this in a bad way, but based on your messages, I honestly don’t think you do), my advice would be to let the idea rest until you can’t help yourself. I’m sorry if this isn’t the response you were hoping for, but it’s the best I can offer. Best of luck to you.

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