In today’s episode, I’m sharing my thoughts about originality and the idea that it’s all been done before. How to approach if you struggle with this thought and mental block around not being original/ unique or new enough. Through my personal struggles and examples around it, I’m sharing some helpful actionable steps that you can take to reframe it for yourself and the way you show up in your creative work and life. Why it is so important to share your story, your experience, and your take on it all? What happens when we share our vulnerable, raw, and unedited stories without falling into this trap of ‘it’s all been done before. What’s even the point?’
Links that I mentioned:
- Book: Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
- Group program: Embrace
- Work with me: 1:1 coaching and mentoring for creatives
- Book a free call with me
- Sign up to the fortnightly letters
- Connect with me on instagram @hirasahmed
Transcript of the episode:
Hello and welcome. So today, let’s talk about originality and tackle this story of why bother, it is all been done before.
You have an amazing idea to work on and the voice of your inner critic is getting louder. It is hung up on the idea that it has all been done before. Why do you need to do it too? What’s the point when it is all already done and said before. If that’s what you struggle with, I’m here to lovingly challenge you that no ideas are original. I have a sticky note placed right in front of me on the wall above my desk that reads, ‘No ideas are original’. It works as a reminder every single time I sit down to write, paint or create something – anything
.We put so much pressure on ourselves to be original and I’m sharing this in a hope to free you from this unsaid invisible yet always present trap that might be standing in the way of you creating your best work and sharing it with the world.
Look around you, observe, and really question this idea of originality. We are all products of our collective evolution. Our thoughts, experiences, ideas, and stories are all bits and pieces that we collected along the way from everything we ever came in contact with. I remember a friend once describing herself something like this, I am a collection of all the people I have ever met. I’d say we are all the collection of the people we’ve met, the places we’ve been to, and the experiences we’ve had.
I won’t lie, when the idea of this season came to me, I was thinking exactly the same thing. Oh well, it is all done and said before and what’s the point of me saying it again?
Here’s how I approach it. I remind myself that It is my story, my truth, my idea, my experience and I am going to share it in my way. It’s my story and I have lived it and that’s what makes it enough to be shared. That’s what makes it mine to be shared. When we share our stories, our truths, and our ideas however vulnerable, raw, and unedited they might be, we end up making connections, finding our people, and recognizing ourselves in one another and that’s what makes us feel less alone and more human. All creative work is built on what came before. Every new idea is just a combination of one or two previous ideas.
When we accept that everything has already been done before, we take that pressure off ourselves and our work. We let it breathe and allow it to come to life through us and evolve over time. We don’t waste our time and our energies on trying to be different than everyone else and on being original instead we focus our time and energies on being more ourselves and creating the work we want to create and sharing our version of whatever we are experiencing, going through and learning.
I see this question come up very often during the conversations I’ve with my clients and this is why I know how it could be paralyzing to move forward with a thought, a limiting belief like that standing in our way. Some time ago, one of my clients asked me this question and I realized how it had been a long time since I thought about it like that myself. She asked now there are so many creative coaches out there, how did you end up being so different in your voice and in your message? I was surprised to hear her put it like that because, in my head, I don’t feel like I am that much different after all which I felt the need to really dissect and analyze but my honest answer to her question was that I was not trying to be different. That wasn’t the intention or motivation. In the early beginning, it was but not anymore. The more I dove deeper into uncovering my own voice and say out loud what I really believed in – I ended up being that amount of different that you think I am. At the early beginning of my journey when I was feeling frustrated that I needed to find what made me different or unique so I could start my work. This is the lesson that I learned – that I needed to get working. I need to get creative and create the things I wanted to create and do the work myself and it will eventually happen as a by-product.
As Brene Brown said,
‘The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity.’
Believe, believe that what you have to share is worthy. Believe that there is space for you too. Believe that there is space for everyone. I wholeheartedly believe you have something amazing to share with the world. So, get sharing.
In all honesty, I still struggle with it sometime. I like to research and read a lot. I cross-reference things all the time. I have this habit of researching everything that I am thinking about to make sure what I am thinking about is not stupid or invalid. Searching on the web is always reassuring as it makes me see how many others are thinking, struggling with something similar. But this also starts this spiral of me feeling like I have nothing new to say or to add to the conversation. I have this desire to be unique, different, and authentic. When I see someone else doing something similar I used to have this response of feeling discouraged and now with practice and a lot of self-reflection my brain has rewired and reframed it in a way that empowers me instead.
Earlier, my response was that oh now they are doing it and here I have been thinking about it for a long time and haven’t been able to do it for whatever reason and now if I do it too it would appear as if I am copying them and deep down I will feel like I am not original, not authentic. This used to make me feel discouraged and almost resentful of them. This was the scarcity mindset.
Now when I see someone doing something similar to mine, I feel excited for them and it makes me believe that it is possible. If it is possible for them, it is possible for me too. This is a growth mindset. I no longer resent them but I am grateful for them to put it out there before me as now I can see there is a market for it. It allows me to collect relevant data and tweak my thing even before putting my idea out there. It is also because now I believe there is plenty out there and what is meant for me is going to find me. It is starting to sound a bit woo here. Isn’t it? It is also because I believe in myself more. I know that whatever it is that I can add to that idea or even if present the same idea in a different packaging since it is coming from me, it has a part of me in it and that’s my secret magic ingredient.
When you start believing that it’s all been done before and you won’t be adding any value by sharing your amazing idea, your side of the story and instead you might end up adding to the noise – you are doing a huge disservice to yourself, your creativity and the people you are here to touch and serve with the work you do. This mindset will stand in the way of you creating anything at all. At least that was the case for me.
Believing that there really is space for everyone, for every story and for every idea no matter how many times it has been done before can become a lifesaver for you, your art and your craft – your creative practice. You will recognize that we are all on different points on our journey and someone needs to hear what you have to say to make that journey easier and worth traveling for them. You never know who is listening, reading, and getting inspired by. We all need to hear different voices sometimes saying the same just in different ways and you never know which way resonates with them the most, makes them stop and rethink.
We also need to hear it from people we love and trust whose advice we seek out and sometimes we also need to hear more than once for it to make it sense to us. We also need to hear it said in different ways, different voices and different people – saying the same thing but maybe putting it differently together is sometimes what we need to understand it or for it to make sense to us.
Lastly, I think being original is overrated. It is okay to not be original. Not everything has to be unique for it to be worthy. It is okay to feel the same emotions that another person is feeling and share your side of the story. Your work doesn’t have to be extraordinary and quote-unquote original to matter. It is exhausting and overwhelming to keep trying to be original. It is okay to only want to be creating because you want to create, share, and simply just connect.
Here’s what I’d like to encourage you to do: Don’t let this idea keep you away from creating and sharing your best work. More than anything, I hope that you realize and accept that it is original enough when it is coming from you with your tint. Maybe just maybe forget about being original altogether as it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. What matters the most is you being creative in an honest and authentic way and showing up and sharing your work. If this is something that you’d like to read more on I highly recommend reading Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon and to finish I’d like to share this quote with you.
‘Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new after all’.
– Abraham Lincoln
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