JC Hallman on Artists Repeating Themselves

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11 August 2010

I’m catching up — on lots of things — but specifically on all the great writing at The Millions.   Enjoyed this piece by JC Hallman about the ways in which writers repeat themselves (or not) in successive work, and the conundrum thereof.  “Do more of that,” an agent or editor might say or imply, after a literary success.   Or, “That again?” readers might complain.

There are two kinds of repetition. There is the kind we find inside our work, the themes that burble up lava-like from our subconscious again and again, and which we cannot resist and should not, I think, criticize in others. And then there is the repetition that ought to be resisted, that which gives us a program, a strategy that can be applied to any subject. This we should criticize in others. Art should never be the result of habit, it should strive eternally for the fresh and the new even when we work in forms we did not invent. Craft, we should vigilantly remind ourselves, means to make something absolutely new where before there was nothing at all.

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