There are things you find yourself saying time and again throughout your life that, after a while, starts to sound like a quote you should be attributing to someone. And so you go looking for that quote and you can't find it. Either you were wickedly clever and spectacularly erudite, you conclude, or you took the heart of someone else's pithy rendering and ran it through your mental coffee grinder so many times that now it really is yours. Or not.
One bit of wisdom I'm fond of repeating is "Cultivate your eccentricities early in life. That way, when you get old, people won't think you're losing it. They'll just nod and say that it's okay; you were always that way."
That's how I say it and have been saying it for decades. Yes, decades. Perhaps because I didn't want to think I was losing it, I began to scour the Internet for the source of my pithiness. And then I start looking for individual words, like "eccentricities" and "older" rather than the complete phrase. I tried looking for some of my favorite people to quote, such as Mark Twain, possibly my favorite writer of all time. Nothing. So you dig deeper and suddenly, you discover that while you may have paraphrased the wisdom, it wasn't you who first expressed it. It was some guy named David Ogilvy. Except he said it this way:
Develop your eccentricities while you are young. That way, when you get old, people won't think you're going gaga.
For all I know, David Ogilvy may well have been paraphrasing another person. Wisdom and pithiness are often gifts of those who came before us as the famous quote about "standing on the shoulders of giants" so cleverly illustrates. Spoiler alert! Isaac Newton probably wasn't the original source of that particular observation.
Which brings me around to writers and other creative people. With millions of people creating and recreating works of art, stories, movies, plays, and anything else you care to throw into the mix, it does make you wonder how any of us find an original voice. Everything we create or express is, in essense, the way we tell stories. That's equally true of a sculpture as it is a symphony. We're all storytellers, and what most of us want, is to tell our story.
And so I say, "Thank goodness for the Internet," as I invite anybody who happens to be here reading this to show me who might have inspired David Ogilvy's pithiness. Whose shoulders what he standing on?