Cliché is possibly the most popular word in creative writing workshops, and the most useless. When somebody writes about a meet-cute, or a suicide, or a teen pregnancy -- how ridiculous, how contrived, make these people seem real.
Or I've heard news stories being turned down by editors because who wants to read about another kid who triumphed over the odds of the ghetto, or an immigrant adapting to a cold America?
I even hear of people being called cliché. Because they are Indians who want to be doctors, black guys who want to be ball players, poets who want to be...poets.
But then a short story lands in my hands. And it is simple, and it is a love story, and the girl is emotional and the guy distant, and I secretly breathe relief that I can put down my pen and analyzing and just read.
Or I find an article tucked in the folds of The Washington Post, and it's about an athlete who can't see, and I'll cry, right there on the metro, in the morning, when everybody is machine-like and giving annoyed glances to anyone speaking.
The idea that every story -- on paper, in film, in paint, set to music -- should spontaneously appear and be unlike anything before, is twisted. If we can Reduce Reuse Recycle our trash, we can definitely be inspired by the artists before us.
If Annie Proulx had been scared to add to the stack of love stories, we wouldn't have "Brokeback Mountain" (in Close Range), and if Bob Dylan really minded, we wouldn't have ten versions of "All Along the Watchtower".
By the time an idea travels through one person's cauliflower maze of a brain, it will never be the same as when it entered. So here is my vote for free reign of your art -- and as many Romeo and Juliet's as you can possibly imagine.