When I encourage people to write publicly, to publish something, one of the most common objections I hear is:
Well…I don’t have anything new to say…
To this, I have two responses:
- Yes. You do.
- It doesn’t matter.
Why You Have Something Original To Say
There has been no moment in the universe precisely like this one, and there will never be another like it.
No matter how unoriginal your circumstance may seem, there is something original about the moment that you are living in.
Even if you feel like you have lived this moment a thousand times before. We are creatures of habit, and trained to tune out the background, and see the patterns.
Pause. Breathe deeply.
If you take your mind off autopilot, you may notice something different this time around.
Sometimes it is in fact the current situation that is different. Or the way the thought manifested to you that is different.
In most cases, though, what changes is not the topic that you want to discuss, but the lens through which you see it.
Your perspective on the world is constantly evolving, shaped by your prior experiences, which accumulate with every passing moment.
To take it further, take something that you feel like “hasn’t changed” for you in a long time. Go back as far as you can, to the first time you can recall experiencing this. Ask yourself what has changed.
Perhaps what you want to write about is the set of changes that happened to you in your life.
Even if the theme, the phenomena, the habits, the reasons - even if all of those are unoriginal, there is always something original: your story.
Interlude: What’s Different For Me Now
I can’t tell you what a Groundhog Day I feel like I am living in right now.
It is late. I am sitting in front of a computer typing something. I’m gonna be tired tomorrow.
I’m listening to music.
I have done this so. many. times.
I can’t remember exactly, so let’s just call it about 20 years ago.
I was probably procrastinating on a paper I had to write.
Then I’d start frantically writing a few words, maybe string a couple phrases together, jot down another idea. Somewhere along the way, the phrases congealed into sentences, and the sentences into paragraphs.
In between episodes of congealing and aggregation, I would allow myself to be distracted by something else, usually the music, maybe a chat in the background. Late night chats were the best. You felt this sense of camaraderie of being the only two people on your buddy list still awake.
Depending on what I am writing, I find it far easier and enjoyable now. There is no deadline. I want to write simply because I want to finish my story and make my point.
Comparison: Writing has evolved from a “forced” activity to a self-driven hobby
On that alone, I can ask myself: how did this happen? How did writing become an enjoyable activity that I would stay up late to pursue? How did I go from procrastinating writing…to writing becoming my favored form of procrastination?
So I am not entirely sure of this, but there’s probably something original in there, if I were to build out that story further. I have not read all the world’s works, so perhaps someone out there shares my exact trajectory.
Maybe. But that leads me to my next point.
Originality is Overrated
It doesn’t matter.
Some writers say that originality is overrated because you learn from the best first by imitating the best, putting yourself in their shoes, and trying to retrace their steps.
That may be true.
Even so, it doesn’t matter.
For me, there are two main reasons:
First, I write for me. I write because I have a message I want to share with the world, and while I hope that people may find some value in it, I am fine with it if they do not.
Secondly, originality is not necessary to create value for your reader. If that were the case, only one canonical textbook would ever exist for any given subject.
I would go as far as to argue that the lack of originality drives consistency and shared understanding when publicizing a concept. People benefit from encountering the same message in different contexts, explained different ways, to help build familiarity and round out their understanding.
And even for the concepts I understand well: a random reminder once in a while is more than welcome!
So there you have it. Don’t worry about being original. Be you.
Ironically, by being you, being the easiest, most accessible, “default” version of you there is, you’ll likely be original in some way, even if your subject matter is not.
Until next time.