creative resonance

I've been thinking lately about the blessing and the difficulty that can come when artists, writers, and other creative people meet others who are on the same wavelength as them. The blessing of course is a sense of fellowship, of validation, of encouragement and inspiration. But the difficulty can be main-taining your confidence in your own voice when other people are saying the same sorts of things as you, sometimes in similar ways.

I find this a very hard subject to articulate. I'm not talking about plagarism. I'm not even talking about studying another artist to seek inspiration. This is about creative resonance.

When artists, writers, or designers have the same interests, they may end up drawing or writing about the same subjects, working from the same sources, using the same kinds of words or ideas. For example, today I mixed up two painters in my mind, for their works are extremely alike. I don't for a moment think one copied the other. There may have been some intermingling of inspiration, I don't know, but their subjects are similar, their world view obviously also, and it's not really unusual in that case to find two artists with such a closely harmonising style. I am only glad both of them are working - all the more beautiful art which I love!

In another case, there are two photographers I admire who not only produce remarkably similar images, but they also look very much alike, so it's easy to confuse their work. Again, I doubt copying. One being inspired by the other is possible. Infact though, it's really easy to see how two young women from a certain geography (physical and emotional) would end up producing similar imagery.

I don't know if any of them are aware of each other, or how they would feel if they were aware. I believe though that, for an artist, fellowship can come with a certain amount of discomfort. Imagine you go for many years as a solitary practitioner of a creative art such as poetry, photography, or drawing. And then you happen upon other people who like the same inspirational sources as you ... who read the same books as you ... who think along the same lines as you. What a wonderful gift! A place of belonging. You find your own creativity deepening, growing richer, as it receives validation in empathy.

But perhaps you also find that you have to be more careful. An awareness of boundaries creeps into your work, snagging it here and there, slowing you down as you edit for a scrupulousness of originality which is ultimately impossible. Because even if you remain alone, wandering windswept pathways at the brink of dark and untamed land, reading nothing but old library books and writing about them in your own quiet space, there will always be someone out there who reads those same library books and writes about them too.

And even if you ditch the library books and stare out at an empty sea, from which you trawl wild words that you throw into your own corner of the public world with all the intensity that comes from being alone ... other people have their own oceans, and throw their own dragged-up weedy, briny words into their own corner, same as you.

Even if you close your eyes and coil into your own secluded consciousness, from which you create something you've never seen elsewhere before ... it will have been done before. And it will be done again.

I think all any creative person can do in this small, small, interwoven world is believe in themselves, and in their right to share the ways of seeing, and painting, and poeticising, just as much as anyone else.


  1. there is nothing new under the sun.

  2. As a painter I occasionally come across another's work that startles me in its similarity to my own. That makes me uncomfortable but when I read words that resonate with my own emotions, I feel so happy and inspired. In the comment above, Zephyr says there is nothing new under the sun but I disagree. Life is growth, forever evolving and us mere mortals should look more closely at the subtle changes. :)
    Jess x

  3. Thank you both for your comments. Jess, I wonder if the difference in how you feel about art and words is that painting is your primary expression of self, so other people's similar expression impinges on your sense of creative self in a way words would not so much?

    I like what you said about life being growth. I know there are something like 7 stories alone in the world, but there are millions of storytellers.

    1. 7 stories? :) I didn't know that. I'm glad there are so many storytellers though! :)
      Jess x

  4. you have expressed this beautifully.
    I am reminded that we are all connected, more of one being that we perhaps realize.
    7 stories, that is an interesting thought.