Thursday’s Children 3/7/13: Inspired by Originality


Inspired by Originality (Or lack thereof)

Writers complain about a lot of things. Some might say that it’s an important part of what we do. Dickens liked to complain about class inequality. Hemingway complained about the improbability of lasting true love. Poe complained about some damn bird that wouldn’t leave him alone one night. All of these beefs are understandable, even merited, in their own way. It’s not always about telling the world how happy you are, or how much you love something, you know? Sometimes, anger and fed-uppedness work really well as inspirational topics.

But there ARE some complaints that just don’t help anyone.

<Begin rant.>

For example: one complaint that I seem to hear over and over from my fellow writers–which really chars my toast–is the complaint that nothing they write is truly “original.”

Now, I’m usually one of the first people to point out that 99% of all “original” ideas in the world have already been done, in one form or another. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be done differently, or better.

Take Pride and Prejudice, for example. How many different screen adaptations have been done for that book? Tons. And yet, each of my friends has their own favorite version.

And YET, every 5-10 years or so, some book series comes along that is so “fresh,” so shiny and fabulous and newish, that scads of authors in the making throw up their hands–and all too often, whatever WIP they’re currently on–and say “I quit. That story is similar to and/or better than mine.” And/or “I’ll never be able to come up with something that cool/breathtaking/original.” And you know what? They’re defeated. Before they ever really even entered the race.

Now let’s get real here for a sec. First of all, STOP WHINING about how unoriginal your ideas are. Who are we KIDDING? It’s not the idea that makes us special, but the EXECUTION. In the same way we all started out as fetuses, all ideas begin as little seeds of inspiration. It’s up to us, as writers, to take that baby idea and nurture it into reaching its full potential, coloring it with our own myriad life experiences and personality traits along the way. YOU are original, therefore your stories are original. Period. (Provided, of course, that you wrote them all by yourself and didn’t plagiarise. Because that would be a dick move.)

So. What’s the moral of this rant, you might ask? The moral is this:

I don’t care WHO you are, or how much TV you’ve watched, or what books you’ve read. And I don’t want to hear about how everyone and their mother has just now started doing this thing that you wanted to be the only one doing, and now you don’t want to play anymore. That’s defeatist, and it’s lame. Because if you’re writing with all of yourself? All of those tiny little differences that make us each who we are will ensure that no two versions an idea will ever come out exactly the same.

Because we’re all special little snowflakes, or whatever.

<End rant.>

So. What really yanks your chain, when it comes to writing?


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8 thoughts on “Thursday’s Children 3/7/13: Inspired by Originality

  1. Guilty!! Of worrying about the originality thing. But I’ll never quit playing, and your advice to tweak your own work to make said unoriginal story YOUR VERY OWN, is right on. Lovely post! 🙂

  2. I do love how you can talk about precious, unique snowflakes and dick moves all in one post. Yes, like Kate, I do worry about originality. However, my last book, though it reinvented a classic fairy tale, was so WEIRD in some ways that I now feel more capable of being original than I’d given myself credit for. And it was a book that combined my own personal bag of interests, fears, experiences etc., so I agree, originality comes from the execution. As to what yanks my chain, hmm. People who complain about having SOOOOO many wonderful story ideas that they simply can’t choose which one to write.Yes, I’m jealous.

  3. I haven’t been hit by the originality wave of self doubt yet – although I probably should have been after looking over some of the unoriginal earlier pieces… I think I’m still in the ‘I still have soooo far to go phase’. However I’m trying to be chipper about it – after all as like as I’m learning, I’m getting better.

    But I really like the idea of taking a rant and building a story out of it – now that you mention it, I’ve read a lot of great stories that have done just that!

  4. I agree — I completely embrace and celebrate my unoriginality, lol. Everyone is inspired by SOMETHING they’ve read before, whether it’s the latest flavour of the week, a book that they’ve read as a kid, or Homer. It’s inevitable that this inspiration will flow into your writing and characters, whether intentional or not.

    I say, own up to it, give credit where it’s due, and celebrate your own take on a familiar tale.

    Thanks for ranting!

  5. Brilliant rant and I always appreciate a well-placed “dick move” as it’s one of my favorite phrases. Also, I share this rant.

    There are some people I know who take it as a personal affront when anyone writes anything even remotely similar to one of their works. Now, I’m talking about something as incidental as both of their heroines wearing jeans and hoodies. It’s especially delightful when they discover new vampire or cop books. They’re convinced that everyone is out to copy them and steal their precious, precious ideas. Honestly, I think the only thing that would make them happy is if everyone else either wrote using an entirely different alphabet or stopped writing altogether so that they were the *only* writers ever.

    As I’m sure you can tell, it makes me really stabby – lol.

  6. Guilty as charged! I write paranormal/YA so it’s hard to find an original angle. I used to worry about it a lot more than I do now. Now I just figure, screw it. :p

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