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  • Writer's pictureJoe Martin

Originality is overrated

Originally posted on the 27th of April 2021


Have you ever sat down to create something and one of the things at the front of your mind be - 'this isn't original enough'?

Originality is something that has been on my mind a lot over the past year or so; I thought that if what I am working on isn't considered 'original' then I'm a phony, and I'll be ridiculed by my friends and peers. In fact, this question came up when I had the idea to start writing this very blog. After all, there are countless blogs on the internet, so why would someone want to read mine?

I know! I have to offer something completely original, never seen before, then this will be worth it. I will be worthy.

There is one small problem however - nothing is original. Planet Earth is 4.54 billion years old, with a population of nearly 8 billion people, and the creation and sharing of ideas has been going on for far longer than you or I have been alive. Ideas are continually 'created', forgotten and then rediscovered, or 'created' again.

I have to consciously tell myself that this is okay. Many of the people I have worked with are conscious of the influence the people they most admire have on their work, and so I can't be the only one who feels like this. I think that in order to find your own unique voice, you have to spend some time sounding like others, and this is just something that more people go through than you or I realise.

What is unique, however, is the influence our life experiences have on what we do. What we experience in our lives flavours the products of our creativity, and this is what we should celebrate. Mark Twain puts it rather nicely:

"There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages."

The main thing which concerns me with the expectation of being 'original', is that I believe it to be a huge waste of time and energy. Of all things to invest your energy in, trying to be original should not be one of them. Whatever it is you're working on, bring to it what only you can. Make the prettiest kaleidoscopic pattern you are capable of, then do it again. And again. Repeat ad infinitum.

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