Creative Life Truths: No One’s Ideas are Original

Creative Life Truths: No One’s Ideas are Original—Write Right

A few weeks ago, The Next Web published an article about the brutal truths of the creative life. I enjoyed the article so much that I decided to approach each of the eleven truths in individual posts. The first truth: no one’s ideas are original.

The thought might burst a few bubbles, particularly of people who compete on shows like So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol, or The Voice. To be fair, some of the competitors possess unique ideas. “Unique,” though, isn’t a synonym for “original.” Unique refers to a certain angle or, as sometimes happens on So You Think You Can Dance, a fusion of dance styles. The resulting outcome might appear entirely new, but appearances can be misleading.

In addition, history reveals people who constantly point out that ideas aren’t original. Take Solomon. He took it upon himself to try everything that there was to be tried. Every time he proclaimed how meaningless the activity was, ultimately saying there was nothing new under the sun. Fortunately, he doesn’t leave his readers with the pessimistic outlook; several times in Ecclesiastes he says earthly pursuits become worthwhile when surrendered to God (Ecclesiastes 2, 3, 12).

My own creative life speaks to the truth of unoriginality. My ideas may seem like they spring forth out of nowhere, but they don’t. The brain works, even when I’m unaware of it. It catalogs and organizes and proffers information. It causes me to jump from one thing to another, finding ideas, building cases, and presenting arguments.

Some artists might find the truth disillusioning, disappointing even. I don’t experience it that way. I know, even though my ideas aren’t new, that they are translated in a certain way because of who I am and when and where I live. The concept gives me hope, keeps me humble, and serves as a reminder that the act of translation — the process of taking an unoriginal idea and giving it a shape on the page — is a worthy art, too.

Image: Cultura de Red (Creative Commons)