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Saturday, November 17, 2012

The New York Times ran A.O. Scott’s review of the new Anna Karenina movie yesterday, and the first paragraph resonated with me:

“Bad literary adaptations are all alike, but every successful literary adaptation succeeds in its own way. The bad ones — or let’s just say the average ones, to spare the feelings of hard-working wig makers and dialect coaches — are undone by humility, by anxious obeisance to the cultural prestige of literature. The good ones succeed through hubris, through the arrogant assumption that a great novel is not a sacred artifact but rather a lump of interesting material to be shaped according to the filmmaker’s will.”

I think all creative endeavors, not just movie adaptations of great books, require a dash of hubris.  “There is nothing new under the sun” is a surprisingly ancient concept. No matter what you’re doing — designing jewelry or clothes, painting or sculpting, writing a book or a fashion blog or a computer program — there’s a good chance you’re not the first one to do it. Even inventors who revolutionize society with their creations are influenced by what came before them. The best evidence of that may be the fact that, often, multiple individuals are simultaneously and independently working on similar projects.

“So many people have already done such-and-such; what could I possibly have to offer?” I hear (or read) people say (or write) that all the time. Banish that thought! It’s paralyzing.  You have to believe that your voice is unique and therefore will distinguish your jewelry or blog or gadget from all the ones that have come before or that are out there now. It doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong about that. You just have to believe.

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16 Responses to “A Dash of Hubris”

  1. ah


    “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child” – Picasso

    doing and shutting down fear

  2. Oh, WendyB, you are so right. As usual! Very inspiring post today =) Thanks!

  3. Thanks for your voice of encouragement!

  4. yes, yes! I had a similar thought (but not as well-developed) when I read that review. Message: go for it!

  5. So very true. You must believe in yourself. Agree, there is nothing new under the sun, my Grans always said that!

  6. ali says:

    hubris is ESSENTIAL. and this is why true artists make beautiful art and often lead terrible lives.

    then again, leading a beautiful life requires hubris… but it’s a fine line! LOVE THIS POST.

    love your anna wintour interaction. cracked my shit up in my bedroom and my new roommates thought i was choking!

    MR B has the best job EVER!

  7. SarahMac says:

    Oh Wendy you are so right. I’ve been totally crippled by this sort of thinking for my whole life, my whole family thinks this way. Writing a blog is the first time I’ve really gone out in a limb and done something I wanted to even though I felt like everyone else had already done it better. Yay.

  8. Melanie says:

    A science friend said that there are seven dimensions – it has been proven scientifically… Hm. So there are bound to be more me’s than is healthy for this planet, or these other dimensions. So how unique is that? Plus I’ve heard we have about 4,000 dopplegangers of ourselves around this world… Hm. We can hope we have something unique to offer – and you clearly do in your fantastic creations.

  9. stacy says:

    I wuv this post.
    We’re all inspired by something and often it’s on an unconscious level. What matters is how you make it unique.

  10. And to wit, A. O. Scott adapts the opening sentence of Anna K: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” I think it’s “successful.”

  11. Eli says:

    Great and inspiring words Wendy – because it speaks beyond movies and jewelry. The fear of failure stifles so many people from even beginning their dreams!

    ps. Loved your post about Anna Wintour in the elevator, you looked great. Hope the meeting was fruitful!

  12. Marti says:

    I know it’s true…
    @Inspired_Ones -Shared via TweetCaster

    So, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe, that you have received it, & it will be yours. -Mark 11:24

  13. Suz says:

    Huh. I oddly needed to hear exactly that, at this particular time 🙂 Thank you, fashionable stranger.

    *I just popped in to ogle the clothes