Creativity & the Myth of Originality

Does creativity have a formula? If so, would originality be in the equation? Mark Twain once said that no new idea truly exists. However our culture values innovation, progress and the next new, shiny thing. I question the necessity of originality when it comes to creativity. It may be important, but it’s neither essential nor sufficient. If you think about it, I’m sure you can find countless personal examples of being creative or witty but wholly unoriginal. 

When it comes to this site, I often have a great idea that excites me. I then do some research and boom, Uncle Google bursts my bubble! Someone else has said or done it already! All I can say is “B!%&# stole my thought!” Sometimes I tweak my ideas to make them more novel. And sometimes I simply accept that someone else beat me to it, and I can only add my special spin to make the idea more authentic to my voice and perspective. 

Photo by Tim Mossholder from Pexels

Realizing that your new idea is not original can be disheartening. It is easy to limit ourselves and not share our thoughts and creative pursuits because someone else already has said or done something similar. It’s understandable to keep our creativity to ourselves if we feel it is not good enough for public consumption. But none of that matters! The process of creating brings us joy, allows us to experience flow, and fulfills a deep human need. Plus your creation may resonate with someone else in a special and meaningful way. How many times have you told someone something and they didn’t understand? Then someone else shares the same general idea, but phrases it in their own way. And boom, it finally clicks!

We have the phrase “not to reinvent the wheel” for a reason. The acts of refinement and iteration are valuable in the creative process. To improve upon and modify what already exists is important. It honors tradition and builds upon existing frameworks and foundations. In her book, Big Magic, Liz Gilbert says creativity and inspiration find you. When they call, we have three options, and one is to let it go to someone else. 

So yes, your idea probably ain’t new, but pursue it anyway, Suitie! If you’re called to write that book or screenplay, write it! Cook that meal. Compose that song. Paint that mural. Design that dress. Start that business! Go forth, make magical masterpieces! First, because you can. Secondly because it might positively impact someone else. After all creativity tends to have a far-reaching ripple effect. 

So Suitie, what do you dare to create in your own unique but unoriginal way?

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