Originality is... a by-product of sincerity. ~Marianne Moore
It’s a common notion – original ideas are a thing of the past – everything we see now are simply masterfully conceived derivatives of a unique (at the time) concept. Fine. Let’s deal with that head-on. Who cares? I have one word for you – Vampires. Here’s another – Zombies. Shall I go on? Lost love. Unfulfilled prophecies. Revenge. These are all stories that revolve around the same idea…but handled very differently…and more importantly…successfully.
I may not be different, but I'm definitely not the same. ~William J. Dybus
I’m a 5’9” tall Caucasian with hazel eyes, a shaven head and a pudgy nose. How many guys (and maybe a few women) do you think there are in this world who look like me? I’m also right-handed, have a gap in my two front teeth and a lazy eye when I’m tired. That probably narrows it down some more, but the truth is there are still thousands of guys who look just like me – but you know what, I’m still unique. My education, life experiences, and moral values help others to put me in categories with people who are similar, but still -- I’m unique. Why? Because what sets me apart from the 7.2 billion others…is my mind…and the way I express what’s in it.
It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation. ~Herman Melville
As a writer I see aspects of my work that bear a resemblance to other authors, especially those I’ve read and admire. Does that mean I’m imitating them? Was Hank Aaron imitating Babe Ruth when he broke the all-time home run hitting record? They both used a bat…and swung at a ball to try and send it off as far as they could. Was that imitation? Heck no. In the writing world an author’s distinctive voice typically comes from a myriad of influences that have pooled over time into personalized expression. Sure some elements may stand out more than others, but it’s still as unique as a fingerprint.
The fastest way to succeed is to look as if you're playing by other people's rules, while quietly playing by your own. ~Michael Korda
Ever heard of a game called Telephone (or Chinese whispers)? It’s a game played around the world, in which one person whispers a message to another, which is passed through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group. Teachers and instructors use the game to demonstrate how errors typically accumulate in the retellings, so the statement announced by the last player differs significantly, and often amusingly, from the one uttered by the first. What are usually emphasized by these exercises are the reasons for the breakdown like anxiousness or impatience, leading to erroneous corrections. But what about the other reason, the one that’s overlooked? Some players deliberately alter what is being said because they are reinterpreting the information and passing it along in their own unique fashion. Are they to blame because the message came out of the chain different then it started…or should they be celebrated?
In a society that rewards originality…but depends on conformity…isn’t it nice to know that we can do both? :)