When I was in junior high, I spent a lot of time listening to Moist. Silver was one of my all time favourite albums and everytime my best friend and I headed to his cottage, it was in rotation with Throwing Copper and August and Everything After.
I got older and never lost the love for David Usher’s music. But David Usher grew up too. His solo career took off and Silver was replaced with St. Lawrence River.
The other day, I was going through a few books at the public library and I came across Let the Elephants Run by a man named David Usher. I flipped the book over and saw a picture and lo and behold, it was the same David Usher. And as good as a musician as David Usher is, he might be an even better writer.
I’ve spent a few weeks trying to figure out the best way to write this post. Is it a book report? Would I relate it to my own personal experiences? Or was there something more to it?
I took 700 of what I thought were the best words that he’d written and just copied them over, wondering if maybe I should just present them, without editorial comment.
But that seemed a little like stealing…and a little like cheating. And while David Usher describes creatives as “hunters and thieves”, I’m not sure that’s what he meant.
So instead, I decided to settle on what I felt was THE…SINGLE…MOST IMPORTANT…point that the book made. And so I decided to dig into the “hunters and thieves” idea.
Artist or entrepreneur, in my mind we are all hunters and thieves. We are an amalgamation of the ideas that surround us.
When I wrote my first book, I was watching a LOT of movies. I worked all day and so I would movies well into the early hours of the morning while henpecking away my story on a laptop.
My book was very much about identity and I’ve always believed, a la High Fidelity, that the things we love MATTER. I’ve always believed that you could learn a lot from someone by knowing their favourite Nirvana song (it’s Heart Shaped Box) or their favourite Keanu Reeves movie (it’s Point Break) or their favourite book in the Lord of The Rings (it’s The Two Towers).
I think that it’s impossible to separate ourselves and our creative endeavors from the things we love. While I was writing, I watched The Matrix, Toy Story, Stranger Than Fiction, LOTR, and so many other films and I believe that each one of them had an impact on what I wrote.
But we’re all hunters and thieves.
David Usher’s book is not original. It’s not a brand new idea that no one has ever considered. It’s not a magic bullet. It is HIS experience with creativity. It is what HE has learned and what HE believes. For the record, I think (and ultimately hope) that he’s right. But I don’t care that other people have written books that sound like this. I don’t care that other artists wrote albums that SOUNDED like Silver (also, very few did). I don’t care that every year there are a dozen or more movies that are just a retelling of Romeo and Juliet.
Shakespeare got it right. But does that mean we can’t ever write another story about star crossed lovers?
Don’t steal. I get it. That’s important. But the idea that we are some sort of media island, independent of the influences of the every day are silly.
So hunt down what you love, steal it, and then make it your own.
We’re all just hunters and thieves.