In search of Originality

I wake every morning at 5:52. That’s when I have my grand idea. I then invent a new language with its own alphabets. I write about my idea in that language. Then, I go through the painful process of translating what I wrote into English, backward. Finally, I publish it here. I put the ‘origin’ in original.

One question inevitably comes up when I meet someone who reads what I write: “how do you come up the ideas?” I tell them about the aforementioned process and they tell me how they can never do that because they are not creative and original and all of that. So, I get all crumby and them the truth:

Everything that needs to be said has been said. Even the previous sentence has been said by three different people. A different version of that sentence has been said by hundreds. What I am saying here has been said. What I will be saying years later will have been said too. Everything I have written here has been a combination of something I have read, watched or heard. None of it is original. The ‘origin’ I put in original, is borrowed.

Originality can be debilitating. It can make you give up even before you begin. There are times I have writing ideas, and I wonder if  I am an adult prodigy. That feeling lasts until I type that idea into Google and a hundred search results show up talking about the exact same idea. Same words, even. Some 17th-century philosopher would have spoken about it too.

Originality is not limited to writing. It’s something we look for in all forms of art. And by art, I mean anything that involves some form of creativity. And by creativity, I mean anything that involves some form of thinking. Looking for originality is like looking for a pigeon that knows where to shit. The only thing you can find in art is the truth. The truer an artist has been to the art, the more beautiful the art. Some people will agree with that truth, some won’t, most won’t care.

You can’t put off doing things because they may not be original. There was a movement called Renaissance in the world of art. If you’ve heard of a famous painting, chances are that it is from the Renaissance period. Nothing about Renaissance was original. The very word means re-birth. What made Renaissance the greatest and the most productive period in the world of art was that the artists went for the truth. What we call originality is the coming together of truths that are not your own at a time you never planned for and at really odd places.

Originality is a dead frog. The sooner we stop poking around, the sooner we can feed the frogs that are starving. Things stop being original because you have heard the truth elsewhere. Or you’ve heard it enough times that you want to bang your fists on the table and yell, “not another book about falling in love with a vampire!” There’s an entire Wikipedia page talking about everything that influenced J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. It’s a long list. J.K Rowling created the most beautiful truth out of her influences.

“Potter was the surname of a family who used to live near me…I always liked the name, so I borrowed it” – J.K. Rowling

When you begin creating, you can’t let yourself think about originality. That will leave you staring at blank-ness. You should put out your version of everything that has already been said. You need to find your truth within someone else’s truth. That’s not just how art works. It’s how all of life works.

And I am not the first to say that. From Oscar Wilde to Stephen King, they all had their version of what I said. I just saw a way to put a Pigeon in the middle of it.

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