Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. -C. S. Lewis

In an industry where creativity is the focal point of our art and our individual minds are the tool for which we weave fantastic stories, originality would seem to come to us naturally. That is a novel concept but it doesn’t always work out that way. We are heavily influenced by everything we come in contact with- from ourselves, to the people we interact with, books, and of course social media. As big as the world is, it’s rather small for us and places like Facebook make it even more clear how small the world can really be in our existence. With it being so small and us spending so many internet hours chatting away with the same people and essentially watching them and their shared habits, it becomes easy to be influenced by them. Before you know it, their ideas have become your own. And it’s all recycled because this is a small world after all.

I’m not saying that we are weak in our own character; that we have morphed into another being, but we have in fact allowed some of what we read to be ingrained in us. There is a place I’m going here, stay with me please. It was just recently when I shared that if we want to start our days positively, we need to make the effort to do it. Communicate positive to get positive back- because we are impacted by it. But what happens when you spend so much time around other creative types who are always talking about their creative efforts?

They share story concepts they are working on. They ask intriguing questions in groups that generate a buzz amongst other thinkers. Before you know it, you have a great idea that is not so original. I’ve seen it enough to know that when you have a really good idea, someone will love it enough and take it somewhere else. There are a few that say, I borrowed this from somewhere but there are plenty that change a few words and make it their own. This isn’t good etiquette and being the recipient of it, I’ll admit to a moment of pause and the urge to tilt my head and cut my eyes before realizing it was indeed a small thing and to let it go. But what about great works of art where money is being made off of it or even fame? I’m not talking about plagiarism here but having an idea and someone else using it to write their story?

Well. . .the truth is, I’ve read few works of written art that I can call original. Most of what I read is in fact some variation of another story or idea. How that writer told that story is what made it genius. It almost bothers me to think that my story would be like someone else’s though. And maybe this comes from being odd most of my life and not ever really fitting in, and enjoying that about myself. I don’t want to be like anyone else and I don’t want my story to be like anyone else’s. Should this matter? I guess not because readers eat up the original and the not original ones the same but those of us that have found that niche that says, this is my story and you can’t do anything with it but read it, well those are the people I look up to. Tell me how you did it, original writers? And readers, who are the writers that you call, original?



20 thoughts on “Originality

  1. I agree that rare is the purely original thing. We pick up ideas from life, whether it be our own experiences, an overheard conversation in the grocery store, a line from a television show or a setting in a movie, there is almost always an external seed from which our internal creation sprouts.

    I got the idea for “Dream Girl” after reading Dean Koontz’ “Frankenstein” series. Koontz got the inspiration for his books from the original classic, Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein.” None of the books are alike in content, but one begat the others.

    • And yet, Dream Girl felt original to me. I will admit that you fall in the original category. At least I get that feeling. And maybe that’s because you focus on the truth of your story and not on whether you are making it original or not, per C.S. Lewis’ quote. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I think in fiction, as in life, there is nothing new under the sun. I occasionally see a movie I watched when I was much younger, or re-read a book I read a long time ago and am startled to see/read a scene that has elements that clearly influenced something I wrote in one of my books much later. And if you’d asked me, I would say (quite honestly, as far as I knew at the time) that I completely made it up or didn’t know where the idea came from. As far as “true originals” in authorship? Like someone who has ideas or concepts no one ever had before? I don’t know if that exists. But in the execution of an idea , story-line or concept . . . there’s always room for originality there.

    • How hard is it to come up with your own idea? One that has never been thought before and how could we ever know that, if we don’t know everything?! Crazy isn’t it? There is probably no way and so focusing on it is pointless yet part of being an artist is making a way. Being bold and being . . . well original. 🙂 Nia, I think you’ve done a remarkable job taking what could fall into the romance formula trap (I know you don’t write romance but you do write about love in your character’s journeys, right? ) and made your own formula or maybe I should say, genre, because it feels original and new and not like anything else I’ve read. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great post Aja!! As a bit of an odd duck all my life a lot of what you said really resonates with me. I have often been competitive, with myself mostly, so I think about originality as it applies to my own writing every single day. I’m also often plagued with almost crippling concerns about being too open with my ideas before I’m actually published or worse, being thought of as a copycat. Then somewhere along the line I put my sanity cap on and I think about the real trajectory of my goals. They really aren’t as mundane as simply publishing at all. The bigger picture of my goals are exactly what C.S. Lewis aptly alluded to in your intro: If I simply try to tell the truth as I see it then it probably will be original. Because nobody can really tell my truth but me.

    • Thanks, Lily! I really think C.S. Lewis was on to something. And I am going to post that on my computer so I can focus on my own truth. Thanks for stopping by and weighing in. And I can’t wait to read your truth.

  4. Deloris says:

    How am I supposed to follow these authors comments? I’m glad you wrote about originality is short form in writing, but I know you’re the one and poly Aja I look forward to reading y our books.

    • Awwww. Thanks Deloris! I am original. I know that for sure. There is someone reminding me of that daily but I pray my stories will say that too. What I'm learning though, is to not concern myself with it. Just write.

  5. Aja, the one thing that resonates with me from this excellent blog piece is “there is nothing new under the sun”. Pretty sure that’s biblical and holds as true then as it does now. Originality in the form of written word is very rare – there’s always the chance that if you thought of it, someone else may have too – or, as you pointed out, possibly just a blurb on social media could’ve been a seed that sprouted in your psyche and became a written piece. The true mark of a great writer (to me) is their signature – how they made their take on the subject their own and somehow ‘fresh”. Loved this piece and I’m looking forward to reading your work!

  6. Thanks, Roy! If I had to say one thing about your work it would be that you’ve broken all the rules in Urban Literature. Your gangster is not a gansta at all. He’s a family, business man, not out to rule the world by destroying everyone. He does protect his own but would much rather avoid a war. And not only that, his love for his wife (not baby mama, or side chick) is real and doesn’t involve abuse or deceit. It truly is a love story with action, suspense, and a host of other good stuff. You are original. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. I agreed with most of what you said, everything has already been done, its all about what you as an individual do next and how you add some of yourself to an idea that matters.

    As a reader, many of the books I find original are based on the voices that tell the story. Personally I tend to ‘fall in love’ with the narrator, the way they use words, who they are etc. As a person who writes I also get a little sad when I realise that someone else could write the same way as me, but then I see that often the style a writer develops can be taken from multiple places, that could be based on up-brining, personal lingo/experiences, writers that inspire them/idols and so on.

    Being original isn’t always easy, but if you can truly say you are not a copy-cat and simply use your talent, then people should be able to see you and your writing style as YOU (but then there is also nothing wrong with learning from the best and bringing back some things people have forgotten…at least that gives the ‘illusion’ of originality)

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