Unoriginality: A Writer’s Biggest Fear

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The past few days something has started growing on my mind. I don’t know what planted the seed, as it’s not something I had thought about too much beforehand. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m turning 25 in a few months and the “quarter-life crisis” machine is starting to spin its wheels. Whatever did it brought fertilizer though because it’s wrapped it’s tendrils around my brain and won’t let go. Hopefully writing this post out will help loosen the grip and let me think about other, more pressing, issues like whether it’s time I should finally get out of bed at 9am or what type of tea I’m going to have today.

What’s been growing on my mind is the idea and fear that I am completely unoriginal.

At first you might think, “But Cithryth, you create a lot of stuff of varying kinds. You don’t really need to worry about that.” And sure, you would be correct. I make a lot of stuff. Videos, blog posts, podcasts, and lately drawings as well. But here the thing: none of it is original. I’m not even talking about the broader kind of definition of original because that’s a no-brainer. Under no circumstances am I the first to talk about video games in a podcast, talk about a video game while I play it, write about my experiences with a video game, or draw my video game characters. That is incredibly obvious and always has been, so that’s not really the issue here.

The issue is that all of these creations of mine not only feed off of other peoples’ creations – they completely rely on them. Guild Wars Players News? Would not exist if not for LOTRO Players News setting the model, and of course would not exist without Guild Wars 2 the game. My YouTube videos? Would not exist if none of those games existed. The closest thing to original on my YouTube channel is the vlogs, which on their own aren’t super interesting. My blog posts? Usually about other peoples’ games and therefore are completely reliant on those games.

Taken at face value, this isn’t necessarily a problem. I always aim to provide entertainment and information with the things I create and I pride myself on my curation skills when it comes to advice and information. This is more of a problem on an existential level, really. There’s a cloying thought in the back of my mind that I haven’t created anything entirely my own. At the same time though I have to keep asking myself, “Is that really so bad? As long as I’ve produced something that people enjoy and find value in, is it so bad that these creations are based on others’ works?”

Honestly, I’m not sure. This is the kind of thing where the answer is different for each person. I think the fact that the question has been bothering me so much lately is the answer itself: because it’s been bothering me so much, it means that it is really so bad and that I should be working to create something unique and original.

I know it’s dangerous for me to write out my goals on the internet (inevitably it means the goal ends up not being met, see: 52 weeks of short stories, which never got past 4 weeks), but this concern has created a new one for me: create something of my own every week. It might be a short story, a poem, a drawing, whatever. Maybe this will even give me the mental push to start tinkering with game development myself. I’m keeping it quite open-ended because of the aforementioned goal failing tendencies of mine. Whatever it is I end up doing every week I’ll post to this blog so whoever it is that is reading this blog can help me stay accountable for my goal. If anyone actually pays attention to this, I guess we’ll see.

 

7 Comments

  1. SGM Soultamer   •  

    As a semi-disconnected note, I’m loving your posts more and more as I keep reading! I’m so glad I stumbled upon this site.

    As for your post: Having been blogging in a similar niche for the past few years, I know very well how you feel and have also had this same kind of conflict. Is it okay if my content isn’t necessarily original? I asked myself, Is it okay that my content thrives on others’ works? My remedy just to keep my site going was that I wrote for the love of writing, and not because the content was completely original. I wrote because it was something I liked about, and for me, that was enough to liven my spirit about it.

    However, I applaud you for taking initiative to start putting out more original content! As a fellow writer, I’ve h ad a lapse in my stories and things because of general busydoings, but you’ve inspired me to give it another go. As you do your weekly originality, I think I’ll start typing up that story idea that’s been bugging me to be written for a while…

    Wishing you well! We, the internet, are here to support and push you to your goals!

  2. Flosiin   •  

    In the grand sceme of things, it might not seem like an original idea. But from an indivial like my self looking in, it is very original.
    Back in college, I’d wait for the next episode of Next Generation or DS9. The last few years, I watch hardly any TV or radio. It’s all been podcasts, YouTube and blogs from you, LPN gang,Twit network, etc.
    I look forward to your content. You keep it real and educational. And I appreciate very much.
    When I log into GW2, I feel like I’m in a guild of superstars! You all may not feel like it. But from my point of view, you all are.
    Thankyou for all the content that you’ve put out

  3. Ranni   •  

    I was once told there are only a handful of stories and we just rewrite them. It makes sense on many levels but, mostly, to put the term original into perspective. I sent my oldest to the corner store once to buy butter. He was a young teen and had never seen stick butter in his life. He ran home, excited about finding butter in stick form … just blew him away. It was new to him and he felt it was original even if I didn’t because, in a very real sense, it was original to him.

    Sometimes that’s how you have to view ‘original’.

    Your work may be based on others work but you take it and make it your own, adding YOUR views into the mix. I’m not sure I like the word original over ‘fresh’ myself. If that makes sense.

  4. Connor   •  

    Unoriginality is genuinely feared by all sorts of content creators. No one will ever be able to abandon the notion of them being unoriginal, even if it is untrue. As a person that enjoys writing very much, I’ve realized that its a fruitless struggle with myself, to convince my mind that I try my best to remain original. The problem is that, (un)originality remains subjective in its ambiguity regarding what someone considers original. Everything you do, you will find that correlates to something else, which is why you may think that your work is unoriginal. That’s because it does. You can’t find something that has no bonds connecting it to something that already exists. In some extent we all are unoriginal and that’s why, I think, unoriginality bothers us so much. We have been taught to think that copying is not right, that everyone should try to be themselves and through that process, one will be able to make something that reflects his/her own, unique personality. And to some degree that’s correct. What does make a difference though, is the way you interpret ideas and designs. Knowing that you will never make something that has absolutely no connection to something else, is the only way to understand that doing something differently is what matters. GW2 might exist and be the foundation of the podcast, but if your podcast stands out from all the rest then it’s successful albeit not ‘original’. I think humans are relative beings and in their relativity lie the means of creation. I came to your YouTube channel, not because you were the first one to make LOTRO videos, but because yours were much more entertaining and informative than others. And in your unique way of making these videos I found originality. I found originality in your sense of humor, in the way you interpret things, in the way you combine your personality with the game and everything that entails, even in small and unimportant things like the way you play the game or the way you talk about it. Originality is not a concept with strict rules of definition. It’s subjective and it will remain that way. So I guess the point is that you can’t not be unoriginal in a way, but also you can be just by being yourself. I know its cheesy as hell but an individual is the best at being that particular individual and no one else comes close to it. I suppose as humans we can find consolation in knowing that unoriginality is inevitable in one way or another, but what matters is perspective which is purely subjective and therefore renders originality (for me at least) not as important.

  5. Cithryth   •     Author

    Thank you all so much for your kind words and support! It really means a lot that you enjoy my stuff. It definitely wouldn’t be as enjoyable to make if not for dedicated friends and followers :)

    @Ranni – That is a great perspective about the butter! And the idea that we just re-write stories is a good point too, it reminds me of Tolkien’s subcreation theory and the idea of Ur-stories. Everything is just an echo of an original handful of tales.

    @Connor – You bring up some awesome points, especially about how it’s impossible to make something completely free from the influence of anything else. Definitely something to keep in mind.

  6. PT Rothschild   •  

    The old quarter-life crisis. I thought I was the only one who had something like that. When I was 25 though I wasn’t a writer; I didn’t feel I had anything to write about. Being an only child I wasn’t a jock or into group activities. I knew how to entertain myself. I looked at my life and after 25 years, what had I accomplished? What footprint had I left? I was a little disheartened but my first mother-in-law, by then an ex-mother-in-law, had these words for me. “By the time you’re 50, you will feel completely different.” And you know, she was completely right. Now at 70, I have a book on Amazon and live in a valley where people know me by name, not by face. That’s perfect when you write at a small ezine and deliver VICE style leanings about things the mainstream, even around here, won’t cover. Like feeding the hummingbirds, it is a reward unto itself. And you have a grand start.

    • Cithryth   •     Author

      “What footprint had I left?” is a very good description of my thoughts! It is encouraging though to hear that in time I will feel differently. I suppose it’s just the same as how I can look back 10 or more years and see that I have a completely different view point from then, too. Time and thoughts march on.

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