How to be original?

Question: I've always loved books since being little and I have always wanted to write my own but I don't know where to start? I'm worried that if I wrote a book it would be too much like one I have read! How can I be original with ideas that have influenced me and how do I start?


Answer: First, don't put too much pressure on yourself to be original. There are very few wholly original ideas and worrying about originality is a sure-fire way to create writer's block.

It's a common experience among songwriters that the first dozen or so tunes they create will be unconsciously copied from songs they like. The cure is to keep writing songs until that phase ends and they start turning out original works.

Same with story-writing. Maybe the first few stories you write will be similar in both style and plot to stories by other writers that you've enjoyed. But in time you will get bored with that and you will start venturing into ideas and territory that are all your own. Just keep writing, and originality will eventually take care of itself.

Maybe you won't ever find a completely original plot idea. Few writers do. But what you do have (like every writer) is your own unique perspective and interests that will come through your writing.

Think of it like cooking. You can follow other people's recipes, because there are valid principles that went into their creation. But a good cook will eventually find existing recipes unsatisfying and start trying to invent variations on them that are just as valid but suit his/her own unique tastes.

You may find original ways to combine traditional story elements or variations on existing genres or plots. You may dress up traditional themes with new settings and characters. You'll find yourself getting excited about story ideas precisely because you've never seen them done the way you want to do them. Just like no two people have exactly the same taste in food or clothes, you will gradually gain the awareness of your own unique literary tastes that you can bring into your writing.

At the same time, the more you write the closer you will get to finding your own unique style. Writing in another person's style is like wearing someone else's tailored suit. It's never an exact fit and it becomes less comfortable over time. You can learn a great deal about how to write from other writers' examples, which can save you a lot of trial and error in the beginning. But eventually you will only be satisfied if you write your way. That's when the student becomes the master.

Comments for How to be original?

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Jul 10, 2013
how-to-be-original-comment
by: Anonymous

So nicely put. I too had the same concern and now am I satisfied with your inputs. So without any second thought and any pressure , I will start writing. :)

Thanks!!

Aug 31, 2013
Very true!
by: Anonymous

I was worried about this too. Now I realize what I have to do. This question really helped!

Nov 18, 2013
thank you!
by: Susan

I feel like this was exacly my block stopping me from writing. Thank you very much! Very helpful.

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