How to be original as a writer.
A discussion of originality in a world where there is more content than ever before.
As a writer, both of non-fiction and fiction works, I am often challenged with my own nagging voices of doubt. As most of my fiction writing is a collection of incoherent notes, random images in my mind, and barely-started manuscripts, it’s easy to feel isolated in my passion. Reading other works offers inspiration, but can also offer the double-edged sword.
What if I don’t write well enough? Or, what if my ideas aren’t original enough?
I struggled with this idea prior to finishing my first manuscript in high school. Yet, I determined a conclusion for myself that didn’t fuel my doubts. Instead, my new perspective dissolved the doubt of ‘originality’ entirely.
It started with a simple question: What is originality?
Naturally, I stared with a definition: the quality or state of being original. Yet, this answer led me to further my question. I thought, “Maybe, it’s better to ask, ‘what is original’?”
In hindsight, I can determine what ideas were un-original in my youth. Those ideas were re-writes of my favourite books with a name change – maybe – and a few “new-ish” ideas. That was back in the days I didn’t know to start a new paragraph for dialogue. I also failed to detail who was speaking – let’s just say, those works are ineligible to me now.
In this day and age, the ability to preserve mediums is better than ever before. There are more books, movies, shows and productions, with much wider access. How is anyone meant to think of anything original?
I learned it was all about perspective!
If we reduced every movie, show or book, we engaged with into five words, there would be a lot of forms with the same descriptions.
Love, war, friendship, sacrifice, bravery.
The first series that comes to mind is: A Court of Thorns and Roses (my current read). The second is: The Hunger Games (my boyfriend’s current read). I could go on, but I imagine you have more examples yourself, which proves the point.
Imagine if any of these authors stopped writing because their ideas were similar to someone else’s. I know there would be a lot of fans devastated by the worlds that would cease to exist – including me.
Looking at any idea, or any story, in the macro, there will always be a lot of competition. That’s why I stopped looking at the macro level.
Every writer has their subtle nuances, both in writing style and in the pure creativity of their worlds. I came to recognise that it was the smaller details that impacted whether I loved a book or merely enjoyed it. The micro of any writing is in the characters, the world and the relationship you develop with the text. At a micro level you will find something original, even if the only original aspect is the new relationship you have formed.
When this idea dawned on me, all doubts regarding originality dissolved. Sure, there are more doubts to fill in the void – they don’t go away, but you stop giving them as much of your attention. But, when it comes to originality, I don’t worry.
At a macro level, the similarities are good. They allow you to connect with people and communities that enjoy common topics and literary genres. At the micro, that’s where your originality will shine – even if you can’t see it yourself yet.
So, if you’re an aspiring writer and you’re reading this, trust in your own writing. Don’t let doubt cloud your creativity. There are people out there who want to read the words you have to share!