Creative isn’t necessarily the process of stealing as much as it’s answering what sticks in our brains. When I first read Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” I was blown away. I wanted that simplicity and honesty. That’s not to say I wanted to be Carver. What he did more than anything was show the stark honesty of alcoholics. They’ve got nothing to lose, so they just “tell it like it is.” My uncle was the same way. Through Carver, I learned that writing isn’t original ideas as much as original honesty. We’re all capable of it, but all the things you mentioned in your piece seem to keep us from doing it. Maybe it’s expectation, maybe it’s just wanting to be as good as other people. Real honesty feels different. It’s like Hemingway saying “You have to start with one honest sentence.” That’s the whole nut right there. If you start honestly, there’s a chance the rest will flow in the same direction. If we look at the popularity of, say, John Lennon and ask ourselves, “Why was he so good?” I think he was just a man who didn’t look over his shoulder. That takes guts and honesty. Whether we realize it or not, we’re drawn to it. We respect it. To me, that’s far more important as a writer than whether I’m stealing. Essentially, you become more original the more honest you are (starting with yourself).

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I did a poor imitation of Don Draper for 40 years before writing my first novel. I'm currently in the final stages of a children's book. Lucky me.

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