The thing about originality

I was just scrolling through my Reader on WordPress when I spotted this blog post, about a book called THE DREAM KEEPER, which involves a creature called a shifter.

In case you haven’t heard, my WIP is tentatively called DREAMKEEPER, and features a race of people called shifters. 

There was a time when this coincidence would have royally freaked me out. What if my idea really isn’t original after all? What if people confuse the two books? What if–

You get the picture. 

I’m pretty sure that book doesn’t have one of these either… but that may have more to do with the fact that I can’t really draw.

These days, though, I just chuckle and take a closer look. Beyond the surface details, Mikey Brooks’ THE DREAM KEEPER has nothing to do with my story. One is a modern MG, the other is a NA that takes place in a pseudo-Edwardian war zone. They both spend a significant time dealing with dreams, but for completely different reasons, and with completely different rules attached. Though both may have some similar themes (like trusting your enemies), they’re entirely different interpretations on those themes.

I once took a writing class in college where three of us wrote stories to turn in on the same week, and completely independently we all came up with a story that revolved around a god masquerading as an elderly homeless man (okay, so in one story he was the patron deity of the homeless, but he still looked like one). But aside from sharing that detail (and a few other details that naturally accompany such subject matter) we all had overwhelmingly different stories. One was a reflection of Zen Buddhism, one was an epic adventure, one was more of a Hans Christian Andersen-style fairy tale.

And that’s the beauty of creativity.

 It’s said that there is no true originality– everything is just a rehash of something else. As Mark Twain said, “What a good thing Adam had–when he said a good thing, he knew nobody had said it before.”

But just because a subject has been tackled before doesn’t make it off limits. Nobody has every tackled that subject quite the way you will. And the more you study the works of others, the more you can learn which ways a thing has already been done, and which directions they haven’t yet thought to twist it. 


4 thoughts on “The thing about originality

  1. What a great way to explain this Jennifer. I’ve talked about this in the context of innovation too, which is the area I’m working in for an environmental engineering and consulting company. Thanks for more inspiration. (I also +1’d your post.)


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