Man, there are a lot of smart writers out there! It seems like they just keep getting smarter. Better read, better educated, better schooled in the rich variety of literary theory. And more able, finally, to situate their own work within an historical continuum, to explain who they’ve been influenced by, and how their own work builds on and/or diverges from that tradition.
It’s come to the point where I’ve developed quite the opposite of the writerly affliction Harold Bloom famously named and explored. I do not suffer from the anxiety of being too derivative. Rather, I suffer from the anxiety of not being derivative enough. Of not being able to properly locate my work within the sphere of those works to which I must organically owe some debt. Of having my head too empty when I put pen to paper. Of being, at the end of the day, too distracted or dumb to keep pace with the increasingly academic zeitgeist of the literary world.
Ryan wrote a post back in January about feeling less intelligent than he used to in college, and that is likely part of it. But it’s also an observation about the ingredients for good writing, and for being a writer-as-public-figure, and how these ingredients seem to involve a lot of acronyms. Writers have always been readers, of course–many think of themselves as readers first–but if what I’m experiencing is not unique, I’m drawn to wonder whether writers have always been under such pressure to justify their work.