In the 21st Century, nothing is created from scratch. When we design or write something, we begin with what is already there, the thing that needs amplifying, editing, making user friendly, massaging into a message, and the circumstances into which the designed thing will be introduced. We may not be conscious of the long trail of precedents, everything like it that has already been done, but our thinking and design choices are nevertheless informed by all the books, buildings, butter dishes or bezier curves that have preceded the books, buildings, butter dishes and bezier curves we are currently designing. “To design is always to redesign” (Bruno Latour 2008).
This is not to imply that to rewrite or redesign is a stifling, constrained task. On the contrary, to weave the strands of influence into a startling new form is the very essence of creativity, as any dancer or jazz musician will know. And to reweave, redesign or rewrite one’s own work is to revisit it, sometimes years later, as a different person, energised or embarrassed enough by it to want to take it somewhere new, to demonstrate to ourselves and the world that we have actually learned something. It’s a small step from here to the idea of picking up someone else’s work and finishing it for them — or re-writing it. A rewrite based on a misreading, to paraphrase Harold Bloom.