Everyone wants to write something original. But that desire can keep us silent. Don’t let that happen to you.
When talking with people who want to write a book, I sometimes hear the following worry: I have nothing compelling or original to say.
This belief is based on two unfounded assumptions:
- There’s no point in writing something that others have covered.
- The original idea appears before the work of writing.
Let’s debunk those beliefs.
Originality is Overrated
It’s tough to dream up something that no one has expressed before. People who study plot lines can distill nearly every novel, movie, or play into one of a fixed number of formulas.
If audiences demanded originality, the Internet would go silent. Hollywood would come to a near-complete halt.
If your topic already appears in a book or blog post somewhere, work on it anyway.
Good ideas are worth repeating.
Maybe the person who reads your work hasn’t seen it elsewhere. Perhaps, when they encountered the idea, they weren’t ready to hear it. People often need to encounter ideas multiple times, from different perspectives, before they sink in. We learn through repetition.
If you write with your own voice to serve a specific audience, your writing will have value. Better yet, you may discover you have something compelling and unique to share.
What’s Your Angle?
You may not realize the unique contribution you can make to a subject until you tackle it.
In the excellent book The Myths of Creativity, David Burkus describes the Originality Myth as “the faulty belief that we would not have a given creation without its single creator and that the creator’s idea is wholly original.”
Creativity is the art of making connections between ideas or taking a fresh approach. You have to make the effort first.
The work of writing forces you to think deeply, to search for connections, and to bring your creativity into the process.
Originality arises from the struggle.
Are you holding back from writing a blog post, story, or book because someone has already done it? Approach the topic with an experimental mindset:
- Change your perspective on the topic. Instead of writing about how things are done today, explore the history of the situation or what might change in the next year. If your topic is abstract, find personal stories that put it in a human context.
- Write for a difference audience. If you are writing about a well-worn topic in your industry, consider addressing the needs of an outsider. This will shift your perspective.
If you want to share your ideas with the world, don’t worry about being first. Try to offer your reader something valuable. And start writing.
In a perfect illustration of this topic, I’ve written something very similar to this post: It’s Been Said Before, Write Anyway. And that blog post is based on something by Seth Godin. I practice what I preach.
If you’re writing for an audience of people outside your field, check out my latest book, Writing to Be Understood: What Works and Why.