There Is No Original

originality liquidagency

Ever get into this writing headspace?

I can’t do that, nope, that’s been done before….that’s been done before…and that’s been done beforeandddd I’m going to watch Youtube videos I didn’t even want to watch, recommended to me so kindly by algorithms.

When I was younger I was slightly obsessed with originality. If someone copied something it was terrible and I would hate them until I realised originality doesn’t exist; comedian, writer, musician etc. Plagiarising is a different thing altogether, but I still get the originality yips (I believe that is the first golfing terminology used on this blog in three years).

Yips are when you go to perform an action, but there’s a mental block that prevents it occurring in the way intended. Writing can sometimes be like that for me. I’ll think of a story and if there is nothing unique about it I bin it – well – more save it and never look at it again. Sometimes I write a story and detest it, the yips creeping in half way through, as some stupid voice tells me it’s boring, it’s unoriginal and no one will read it and be amazed. Quite probably true, but the originality hangup is a hindrance every day of the year. The most irritating thing is it’s like perfectionism: neither can be acheived.

It’s natural to get the writing yips from time to time. I try to forget about them, try to remember that nothing is truly original and we are all building from the same universal sand pit with the same tools available, only our minds separating us from each other for the most part. While nothing is original, creative writing feels about as close as it gets.

So if you get the yips, write the most clichéd, bullshit, unoriginal, rip-off, bootleg story that comes to mind, deliberately try to take off your favourite writers and storytellers and see what happens. The yips go away. Just don’t publish it!

 

lion around 2

44 Comments

  1. Nothing new under the sun. We have to use the same ingredients as our literary forebears. But there are countless new combinations and recipes to be made!

  2. When I feel like I’m falling into that kind of headspace, and feeling like whatever I’m working on is super-unoriginal, its usually a sign that I need to work on something else for a while, or else backtrack and delete a bunch of stuff. When I run out of ideas for a certain work I definitely catch myself falling back on cliches and tropes just to keep going. Anyway great article man, thanks!

  3. Hmmm…Yips is a new term for me, and the sentiment is one that I’ve occasionally struggled with too, but I’m generally able to just ignore it. The words may be the same, but your viewpoint and voice will always be unique to you once you’ve found it and I think you have. It’s true that what we cobble together can sometimes be seen as just another Frankenstein’s monster of parts, but it’s how you put it together and if it can shamble away with a life of it’s own that counts. If we ignore the stitches and ignite it just so with that little spark of your spirit, shamble uniquely they will, and hopefully it will trample those pesky yips underfoot. 🙂

    1. Brilliantly put ☺
      Ultimately the story, and authors voice is key. I like the stitch analogy, I guess like taxidermy its all about making it look real, and if held up to scrutiny, the handiwork isnt visible.

  4. Yep, I constantly go through ‘yips’ and have to remind myself that “nothing is truly original and we are all building from the same universal sand pit with the same tools available”. Ironically, I started writing a short post on this very topic months ago, but never published it (it hasn’t been completed, and is still sitting in my drafts). On a separate note, I’m impressed by your versatility as a writer.

    1. The yips can be tough to forget sometimes.
      Thank you for the compliment, its either a gift or a curse lol, I cant seem to pigeonhole myself into a genre and get totally lost in one the way I see some people do. I’m slightly envious at times ☺ but it does mean I write on just about anything.

  5. It’s so easy to start overthinking and then just give up and have the “yips” completely annihilate your work!

    Sometimes I feel like I am the only one in the universe who gets the “yips” and I mope around feeling really really bad for myself for a long time. Then I remember that I am completely self-centred and a tad dramatic too.

    You are definitely right that we have to just keep on keeping on, and then on the off occasion we catch a break and the most unoriginal beginnings can transform into the coolest stories!

    Great post!

    1. Thanks for your thoughts.
      Overthinking is a real productivity killer, essentially the creative brain wont engage and the thinking front brain is stuck. I hate it but it goes away.
      Try not to overthink the yips themselves, just write any old trash, it sorta forces the creative brain to get out the funk. Cheers.

    1. Its a tough one to get over in some ways, but in reality its just a mental block like many others.
      Originality is starting to mean and become me telling a story in my voice, irrespective of every other factor. So in essence writing a story is original by default. That frees me up a bit now i’ve thought about it.

  6. I think there is far too much emphasis on this idea of originality. I have seen so many writers disregard work because they’ve realised it’s similar to something already written. I think so many writers have been restrained by this idea of originality. If someone wrote something similar to you – then use your energy to write a better version of it. To paraphrase a Star Trek saying, ‘Don’t try to write an original story, just write a good one and let your readers decide for themselves.’

    1. You said what I couldn’t say. Awesome points.
      If everyone was hung up on it, nobody would write. But the idea isnt to be original per sé, like you say it is to tell a story, and ultimately if the majority of people like it, that equals success.

    1. While there is no original, I still believe all writers can create works only they could have ever produced which is what keeps me fueled sometimes.
      And following genre rules to an extent is nothing to worry about as long as something is working creatively to produce a novel take.

  7. Okay, so I happened upon a post where you were talking about writing groups. Be careful whatnot wish for.
    So, for the sake of argument, isn’t cliche and regurgitation exactly what the industry is looking for? Don’t we all like that familiar, ‘ah yes, I know where this is going,’ feeling? It’s like a good old bedtime story. No need to think, no need to worry. I’ve entered enough competitions to know that the winners are often much more about industry trend than skill. I once heard that as authors, we need to give the public what they want. At the moment that seems to be 50 shades of sex. Like it or lump it (ooo errr Mrs), that’s how it is. As for original thought, maybe there is no place for it anyway?

    1. I can imagine a bad writing group…and if I ever join one and its as bad as I think it might be, bye bye!

      You are right generally speaking. How many publishers go for the unusual, or even just the most original over some schlocky rehashed bs? Some but not many.
      Just think of the bad books you have read that were popular…ergo its not about the writing always, but what the publishers put out there and market.
      And original thought doesnt seem to be all that welcome in a creative industry. Which is baffling. And in broader society, people prefer the known over the unquantifiable…I dont but thats the consensus.

      1. ‘Original thought doesn’t seem to be welcome in a creative industry.’ Succinctly put. I guess it’s all about outcomes. If I want to be a bestselling author, I celebrate the yips and play the game. If I want to indulge my originality, then I have a WordPress blog.

      2. Or dabble in both 😃😀
        The marketeers are possibly the worst, they seem to dictate too much that certain books get published meaning every single book under them fits into a genre or sub genre.
        Without that I guess they feel lost. Me being naive, years ago I figured the best writing sold most….lol

  8. Ha.. you hit the nail on the head there… The originality aspect has always held me back from writing anything… and I’ve always known how stupid this is of me and that there truly is no ‘original’… but it’s hard to accept for someone whose ego demands to be one in a 7 billion! XD XD XD

    1. Haha. Everyone has a unique thought process, so if 7 billion wrote a 1000 word story on the same topic, none of them wouldnbe identical, I think that is what allows writing to be original as much as it can be and what makes it great.
      But writing a memorable story that adds new ideas to a genre is tough. But do-able, I guess thats the goal ultimately.

  9. Ugh… definitely been there. It’s hard when there are so many amazing authors past, present, and future. A blessing to the reader but a curse to the writer….

    Sometimes I’ll pick a familiar story, something thats been told and retold a million different ways before and just twist it around in my mind until it’s so contorted that it only vaguely resonates with the original. These stories typically exist as scraps of note paper in my lab coat, sound bites on my phone, or incoherent Word documents on my laptop. They never amount to much in themselves, but they have saved me from the clutches of writers block! And occasionally some of the stranger ideas resurface in my novel writing 🙂

    1. Yeah, I think a lot of writers fear is to retread old ground not even knowingly and be called out on it.
      The dissection process seems like a good idea, to play with a story until something new takes shape.
      And yeah, idea scraps can be invaluable, you never know when they might be needed ☺

  10. For me, the worst thing is when I write something I’m proud of and realize later that it’s very similar to something some master has already done only theirs outshines mine by a hundredfold.

    Also, I’ve found that there are a million audio stories on Youtube which has proven a blessing and a curse.

    1. I havent had that happen, but I imagine it must be quite demoralising, however unintentional similarity isnt a bad thing, it is what it is.
      In time of doubt it is easy to read a certain book and wonder how you’ll write something of that calibre, but thats just doubt creeping in, it always passes.

  11. If you’re at all into podcasts or Ted Talks I’d recommend “The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers” it’a quick listen and I really enjoyed it! I wrote about it a little in my last blog post as well 🙂

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