“Today you are you and that is truer than true. There is no one alive that is youer than you.” -Dr. Seuss
There’s a common excuse many people use for not writing or creating the work they dream about. It’s repeated in different forms, but can be boiled down to a little voice inside that screams:
“I don’t have anything original to say. It’s all been done, it’s all been said.”
At some point, it was declared onto the 10 commandments of creativity that we all must be, “completely unique, original, and our true authentic selves.”
This is terrible advice…
It’s true that we must add NEW value to the world. The only way to ultimately succeed as a creator is by filling a void through new and unique work. But originality isn’t something you start with, it’s something you dig up.
And in order to start digging, we need to borrow other people’s shovels.
We each have our own unique set of hopes, dreams, baggage, and fears. We all connect the dots of life in our own way and see the world through a slightly different lens. The road to originality begins by taking old ideas and reinventing them with our own set of fresh fingerprints.
New fingerprints + old Ideas = creativity at its finest
Take a look at the diagram below, based on Joseph Campbell’s famous Hero’s Journey:
Video link: Every Story is The Same
Go around the circle and think about all your favorite movies the last five movies. Star Wars, Goodfellas, every Disney movie ever — each one follows this outline.
We have a hero who starts at home and then, POW! Something happens, a problem occurs. The hero goes on a search and meets characters along the way. The hero pays a price and learns a lesson.
Eventually, the hero returns home having changed.
On the surface, every story is the same. “It’s all been done.”
But what makes new stories original are the characters, the obstacles, and the larger themes that create a new feeling. It’s new fingerprints on old ideas.
The battle for originality never ends. But the last thing you want to do when trying to find your voice, style, or authentic self is to sit around and wait for it to show up.
Chances are you’ll have to be many different people before you ever get to be yourself. If you sit around waiting for a jolt of genius to appear, you might be waiting your whole life.
On the other hand, if you take the time to develop your style, ideas, and do the work, you’ll likely wake up one day with your own voice and ideas that are 100% truly authentically, youer than you.