Friday, July 10, 2009


The other night I was listening to Tchaikovsky on Music Choice. On the bottom of the screen they flash trivia facts about composers and musicians, and some of the factoids listed composers who inspired Tchaikovsky to write particular pieces. I suppose I’ve always known composers were inspired by one another. Of course they were. However, they didn’t have recorded music of any kind, thus they had to attend concerts and be able to replay pieces in their minds in order to learn from them and build upon what they had heard.

I thought about this, and at first I drew the conclusion that musicians and artists have things much easier these days. In the past, it was mainly the aristocracy who could afford to attend concerts and be inspired. Today in contrast, artists on every income level can turn on a TV/Radio/Ipod/Computer and expose themselves to any kind of music or story that they want. We literally have access to millions of pieces of artistic expression at the click of a mouse.

Ah, there’s the rub. There are millions of pieces of artistic expression already out there. So much has been done, it’s become a far greater challenge to create anything truly original. The trick is to be inspired by a piece, but then create something new without copying what we’ve been inspired by. Amazingly, people keep pulling it off. When you consider there are only twenty-six letters, twelve musical notes, and a limited array of colors visible to the human eye, the fact that we keep arranging these things in unique combinations is mind blowing.

My friends Angela & Brooke do it with their music. Marcy Milks does it with her painting. Margaret Atwood does it with her poetry. I hope I do it with my writing, I haven’t always. I love science fiction, but when I tried to write sci-fi it always looked like Star Trek. It was years before I hit upon mystery writing. While I’m inspired by writers such as Robert B. Parker, James Patterson, and Agatha Christie, I hope enough of me comes across in my stories to make them original.

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