December 28, 2009

Don't Bother About Originality

"Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about ORIGINALITY will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it."  -- C.S. Lewis

I struggle with longing to produce what the market has never seen.  And because of that, there are times I let go of something I'm passionate about to try my hand at something I believe is marketable.  There's a fine line between the two. 

Do you agree with C.S. Lewis?  Do you attempt to be original?  Or simply aim to tell the truth?

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  1. One, I love CS Lewis. I think he's so brilliant. So, off the bat, that makes me agree with him.

    Several months ago, this was about all I ever discussed on my blog. I was so caught-up in truth-telling: Should we use our writing to escape reality, or is it human rawness that really draws a reader in?

    The basic consensus was the latter--people would rather see the truth and relate to what they're reading (or viewing in the instance of visual art).

    Secondarily, I also wrote about this concept of originality. I had a conversation with my boss about copyrights and such (because I get so annoyed that you can't copyright an idea). But he pointed out, in the days of the early, classical composers, for example, they all were knocking-off each others' work. It wasn't considered unoriginal or stealing; they saw it as a compliment and a nod to true, inspired art. It didn't matter that it wasn't wholly original.

    Also, this is the longest comment known to man. Great quote--thanks for getting this conversation going.

  2. C.S. Lewis is awesome. I think you just have to write what interests you. Trends change so quickly you'll never keep up. Also just keep writing and submitting your work. If a story doesn't resonate with someone now - it may later. Just write from your heart.

  3. I'm with the other two commentors--1) C.S. Lewis was a brilliant person who said many brilliant things and 2) This quote is no less brilliant. Originality seems to be more effortless than it sounds.

  4. Oh, I'm all about originality. I know a popular mantra is that everything has been done before... but I find that so pessimistic! Yes, SO MUCH has been done before but our own creative twists make it unique!

  5. I just luck out by knowing that my ideas are all completely original, so I am the exception to the rule... LOL (Joking here)

    Honestly, I stick to whatever pops in my mind and as I put it onto a page, I look at HOW I put it on there, not so much, WHAT. I think C.S. Lewis is right.

  6. SarahAnne, that's really interesting about the early composers. (And I liked your long comment)
    Mary, true. Editor's tastes (and readers for that matter) are so subjective. Good reminder.
    Sarah, effortless is a great word. I think I try too hard on things that should just happen.
    M.Gray, inspiring. You give me hope that there's a world of possibility.
    Voidwalker, I laughed so hard at your first line my kids asked what was funny. The how not the what--good thoughts.

  7. This is a great post. I don't think it's possible to be truly original. Everything has been done in some way before. The key is to put your heart and passion (or as Donald Maass calls it, fire) into the writing. That's where the originality comes from.

  8. Susan, I sometimes focus on form or plot and forget my passion. I like that correlation to originality.

  9. I think we may all build our wordy worlds on the shoulders of those who wrote before us...I wish I'd remember who said this, but I think it's got some truth - there are no new stories, just new storytellers (majorly paraphrased, but that's the gist of it). I think the best stories are those where the author's passion for the tale shines through their words - so I guess my answer is - writing stories that you love seems the more important thing -- writing from your own truth and passion will make it original.
    Hope you're enjoying happy holidays and wishing you a happy New Year!

  10. Agree with C.S. Lewis completely. I'd never read that before, thanks for sharing :)

  11. Tinker, love that idea of building on writer's words before us. I'll have to find that quote.

    Diana, C.S. Lewis is one of my heroes so I love quoting him.

  12. For much of my life I would have gone with the originality but now I would lean more toward the truth aspect and I loved the quote as well! It seems that the people can tell when it is coming from within and when it is not.

  13. Heartsjoy, I agree and have to quote, "Truth will out" --Mr. Weasley.


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