If you’re a poet, says Collins, you read all the poets on the shelf and I would extend it to say that if you’re an artist, you look at as much other art as you can cram in your eyeballs and if you’re a writer you read. A lot.
Then you shove every influence into a blender and hit puree.
The point is not that you are the only cook who has ever used these ingredients, it is that nobody has ever combined them quite like you. “What is that?” they say, sampling your stew, “I can’t quite place the flavor…” and of course it’ s the saffron you nicked from Rumi and the splash of brandy from Georgette Heyer and Lovecraft’s cryptic and ill-omened root vegetable and the single perfect quail egg you swiped from one of Basho’s poems. “How original!” they say, right before the laudanum from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle takes effect and then you go through their pockets and drag them out of the room by the heels.
Ahem. That metaphor kinda got away from me there. Still, you get the point. Nobody wastes time genetically engineering their own spices, they find novel ways to combine them. Or they just do it better or richer or stronger or with more heavy cream or Guinness reduction glaze.
…and now I’m hungry, and I just ate. Anyway. Two great truths. And if those don’t work for you, just go read some Billy Collins poetry, and we’ll call it good enough.