“Whoever used [a] metaphor first wrote something fresh, but with overuse it became familiar–and stale” (80).
So perhaps the goal should be to write something so original it becomes a cliché for future writers, leaving them to scramble for something new.
“Reject clichés and first-level creativity.”
“Using clichés, [George Orwell] argues, is a substitute for thinking, a form of automatic writing” (80).
Clark offers several suggestions for coming up with new ideas.
1. Stop. Take a deep breath.
2. “Jot down an old phrase on a piece of paper” (81).
3. Scribble alternatives (81).
Personally, I love a good cliché. I find them delightful, because I have seen them before, and I think them funny–especially clichés claimed by a specific culture. They give the culture phrases all their own, sections of words that belong to them.
At first, they are new to me as I get to know the culture, but over time, they become like Christmas tree ornaments, old, and beaten, hanging sporadically from every conversation. They smell of the culture, and their age places them in the category of . . . pure treasure.
Yet I think I can understand Clark’s opinion. Anything overused is exactly that. Overused.
Beginning writers be warned–we struggle with the even more deadly cliché of language, where “victims are always innocent, bureaucrats are lazy, politicians are corrupt, it’s lonely at the top, the suburbs are boring” (82).
This is the first level of creativity where writers think “they are clever” (82), but it is a “dramatic or humorous place any writer can reach with minimal effort” (82). First level creativity makes a great story–because it is a story that has been heard before, but if we want it read, we are going to have to think of something new and very un-cliche.
In the end, if push comes to shove, leave the first cliché that comes to mind alone, and stick to straight writing.