In a review of the William de Kooning exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (New York City), I came across an interesting quote attributed to the artist: “In art one idea is as good as another.” This seems to run contrary to what we always hear about originality. Everyone seems to prize originality, and artists seem to seek it like the grail, but is originality an over-rated concept intended to mystify what artists, including writers, do?
I’ve heard it said that every story can be classified into one of a few basic plots (this number seems to vary for one to more than thirty). What makes stories different from each other are the details and the execution. If this is true, it would support de Kooning’s thesis: ideas doesn’t necessarily make it art; it’s the execution of the idea that does.
Everyone can tell a story, but only a few people will ever be professional story tellers. Are my stories any different from anyone else’s stories? At their most basic level, probably not. Where my stories differ—hopefully—is in the construction of the plot, the development of the characters, the building of suspense, the deliver of a satisfying climax, and the beauty of the prose. In essence, being a writer is ultimately about the craft.