Quest for original ideas can hinder creative journey

I can’t write this; it’s been done before.” That’s biggest obstacle in creative writing, at least in my experience.

Originality, or lack thereof, has stood in the way of any flow of my creative ideas, and in fact, it’s probably the biggest piece of my personal issues with writer’s block.

It doesn’t stop there; not all of my inventions are restricted to prose and poetry. Any career interest I’ve had has been in some way damaged by the anxiety that competition exists in every medium and in any form.

So I have an affinity to be a renowned film critic like Roger Ebert? Good luck; every sort of publication — newspapers, magazines and even blogs — have their own movie reviewer. Since everyone has an opinion, what would make mine stand out?

What about opening a restaurant? Food is universal, right? Well, first I’d have to pick a genre and customer base my cooks would cater to, because it’s highly unlikely I’d come up with a whole new kind of restaurant. Then, once I’d picked a formula to found my vision upon, how would I distance my eatery from the others in my genre?

And don’t even get me started on making it in Hollywood. Not the acting biz, no way. Let’s just stick to something like screenwriting. Even if I did have a movie script rattling around in my noggin, and it was one day brought to life onscreen, would my story have even the slightest chance of affecting the mass theatergoing audience so jaded by the ubiquitous domain of modern cinema?

I had better stop before my pituitary gland shorts and my bucket list kicks the bucket.

I suppose it’s only natural to be nervous about matching or surpassing what friends and family expect of you. But my internal demand for excellence is a whole lot worse.

I did take solace in a passage of a recent reading from a class, however. This comes from literary critic Matthew Arnold:

“[C]reative literary genius does not principally show itself in discovering new ideas…literary genius is a work of synthesis and exposition…its gift lies in the faculty of being happily inspired by a certain intellectual and spiritual atmosphere.”

Arnold can be darn sure encouraging.

Regardless of my doubts that I can come up with the next great literary maxim, Arnold says that shouldn’t be my goal. If it is, I’m doomed to fail, and lose years off my life from the stress and frustration I’m bound to feel while trying.

Rather, the best chance I have for literary success is to consider the ideas and beliefs already out there, use them and make them mine. Most readers will already know them to be true, and perhaps my creative work will guide them to look at those ideas in a different light.

With that focus, my goals can much more closely align with my dreams.



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