Saturday, 23 March 2013

The road more travelled

00:00:00 Posted by Ashley Lister , , 8 comments

 by Ashley Lister

 I’ll be honest. There’s been some profound writing this week – moving stories about people who’ve taken the road less travelled. I admire individuals who are able to demonstrate their individuality. But, today, I’m not going to advocate taking that untrodden road. I’m going to encourage people to journey down the motorway with everyone else.

True: there might be the occasional jam.

True: the scenery is drab and uninspiring.

True: everyone else has been down this road before and enjoyed its charms and benefits.

But are these really issues?

Individuality, in my opinion, is not something that we as a society should really condone. I’m individual in many ways. My fingerprints are unique as is my retinal pattern and my DNA. But that’s as much as I do in my bid to be unique. In the majority of ways that matter I strive to be a part of the masses. I dress conventionally. I try to keep my personal hygiene within acceptable boundaries. I aim to find common correlative tropes within my poetry and prose so the material can reach a broad audience without being diminished by obscurity or inaccessibility.

Am I conforming? Absolutely.

Is this conformity done at the expense of my individuality? Most likely.

Do I care? Perhaps I should.

But, speaking as a conformist, I believe individuality is overrated. When I’m writing I use language and phrases that my reader can best understand. When I’m driving, I tend to use the road more travelled so I can get from location to destination in the most timely fashion. And, if someone asks me for directions to reach that same destination, I’d most likely tell them to use the most commonly travelled path.

There’s nothing wrong with exploring those less travelled path – but also, I don’t think there’s much wrong with following signposts and going in the direction that’s proved successful for so many who have gone before.


Curious Muse said...

A refreshing perspective. It seems to me that in striving always to be more outrageous, more original, more unique than the crowd many are less outrageous, less original and certainly less unique than they hope. Precisely because their reference point is the crowd. The true originals I have known do not consciously try to stand out. They just do because they think differently and act upon it. They take the same road as the rest of us but somehow they find all the interesting detours and byways. It's just their way.

Ashley R Lister said...


Thank you. I agree with your point about true originals.

Here in Blackpool we see an annual convention of punk rockers. There's an obvious irony in the idea of a convention of people who consider themselves unconventional. To continue with the metaphor of this week's theme: they all look like they're trying to make a main road out of someone else's footpath.

Admittedly, they're very individual - but none of them seem to be truly original.


Colin Davies said...

This is an interesting point you have raised. I think it might be the road metaphor that is at fault.

Are you a conformist, or do you conform to?

I spent years looking at the crowd wanting to be part of it. Eventually I found me and realised that I could still enjoy difference and yet communicate with the norm.

Like you Ash, I write So that others can enjoy. This is my path, it just happens to run along side many others.

Ashley R Lister said...


I do think the road metaphor is flawed but I also think that flawed metaphors help us gain an insight into our subconscious approach to some subjects.

And, ultimately, whether we're talking literal travelling or metaphorical journeys, the only important detail is that the traveller is happy with their personal experience.


Colin Davies said...

Amen to that brother Ash

Lisa McFleeca said...

Robert Rankin plays with the idea of the End being the day when there is nothing new. Mankind has created every story, every poem, song, experiment, book, play etc and there is nothing new. Check it out in Sex and Drugs and Sausage Rolls.

I like this idea because how much of what we do is truly new. We are all each inspired by those who have gone before us, all the way back to the inventors of language, the cave painters and the first people finding fire.

Enjoyed the post

L :-)

Colin Davies said...

I think the road less travelled isn't about being new, it's about being you. Unforced, happy in yourself.

Not being original is very different from being a plagiarist.

Just feel comfortable in your own skin and balls to everyone telling how you should be. Except your editor and your proof reader. Everyone else just has to accept you for being you.

Ashley R Lister said...

Lisa - I shall be on the lookout for Sex and Drugs and Sausage Rolls (the book - not the products: I don't like sausage rolls).

Colin - it all boils down to that idea of feeling comfortable.