The Difficulties of Original Creative Ideas

Last week I discovered that 2 lines of a song I’d written were exactly the same as an already existing song by a different writer. It’s not in my music collection and I don’t remember hearing it anywhere lately, but somehow I wrote 2 lines into my own song.

As an artist I have trouble coming up with original ideas, and I am far from being alone in this. Society values original ideas precisely because they are not easily achieved. Even for the purposes of writing this I am not wholly original: I turn to the web to find quotations on the subject, to use the thoughts of others as fuel for my own.

We are all born originals – why is it so many of us die copies?” Edward Young. Ever look at a 4 year old’s crayon drawing and see the work of a genius? Or are you the type of person who tells the child their cat should have 4 legs not 2, and the grass should be green, not purple? Beatrix Potter once said “Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.” In our post industrial world conformity seems to be more prevalent than originality. Do not most people choose the route of sameness rather than originality often because they fear being ridiculed, shunned, cast out of the collective group? We are taught everything, from what clothes to wear to what lifetime goals we should achieve.

During our current information age is it even harder to have original ideas? “Many a man fails as an original thinker simply because his memory is too good.Friedrich Nietzsche. We see so much of what others have done our own minds are clogged. No doubt we got to this point in history by taking the ideas of others and building on them, but I can’t help feeling defeated when I think I have an original idea only to find on the internet many others who have it too.

So after my discovery of unintentional copying last week I went and wrote new lines, and the rest of my song is still original as far as I know. It still brings me joy, and I hope others will enjoy it too. For now that’s what matters, because in a world where so much has already been said and done “originality does not consist in saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you think yourself.James Stephen. If many others think what I create is fresh and new, and if it stirs some emotion in them, then I am satisfied that my job as an artist has been well done.

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