Are we all out of ideas?
Last month I was invited by a friend to join a writers group. Eight of us gathered on the living room floor and took turns sharing our writing experience and learning from each other the different ways we stay inspired. After I spoke, one of the writers looked at me and asked something along the lines of, “But, if you look to see what other people are writing about, don’t you feel like the topic is already exhausted? How can you add distinct value to something that’s already been discussed?” This question has been ruminating in my headspace since then because I believe it calls out a much bigger issue that creatives deal with:
If someone has already done it, why should I?
Why shouldn’t you?
I come from a digital marketing and SEO (search engine optimization) background and I have hundreds of hours of my head being buried in search analytics, keyword research, and trending queries. Don’t know what any of that is? Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter much for the sake of this piece. What does matter is that there are hundreds of thousands of things that people are searching for.
Hundreds of thousands of opportunities for you to answer their question.
OK, OK, so someone already responded to their plea. But, what if their response didn’t resonate with that person? What if your unique experience is the missing piece of the puzzle?
Society puts so much stress on the importance of the next new thing! or the revolutionary idea that’s going to change the world. So much so that we feel ashamed to recycle ideas and put a new spin on them. To put OUR spin on them.
Because, if it’s not your original idea, then it totally doesn’t matter, right?
Why can’t you look to what others are doing for inspiration? Why can’t you have similar experiences to others? We’re all human, we’re all on Earth searching for happiness and making mistakes we learn from along the way. Why the fuck shouldn’t you be able to write about your journey?
The beauty of life is that we all look at things and experience things differently. Hell, we even see color differently, taste things differently, FEEL things differently. When you sit down to create, whether that be writing, painting, singing, you are bringing your fresh approach to whatever you are working on.
Think about it this way: Does Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide sound the same when they sing it and when the Dixie Chicks sing it? Hell no! They are both incredible songs but sound entirely different. There’s different emotions behind each version, different histories. It may be the same lyrics, but it’s not the same song.
So why can’t we “recycle” ideas then? Does that really mean we’re “all out” of ideas?
I don’t think so.
What we need to do is start OWNING our story. Owning every inch of it. Did you get bullied in high school? Did kids call you pizza face because you had zits all over? Yeah, that shit makes you, YOU. Your thick skin and no-bullshit approach is weaved within your creativity and is unlike anyone else.
When you own your story, you leave space for other people to own theirs. You create an opportunity for people to connect with you and find that common ground. You tell a common story in a new way and maybe you’re able to connect with people that you hadn’t before.
Sometimes all it takes is a new voice telling the same story or same advice for you to get it. For it to really sink in deep.
When you were growing up, do you remember your parents giving you advice? You never listened to it (because what do they know, gosh!) and it wasn’t until some kick-ass speaker came to your school and said the same thing for it to resonate with you. Ok, I won’t ditch class to smoke weed in the morning, I really should go to First Period because Oprah says so.
Think about your work in that sense. YOU are that fresh new voice and your story is the one that will resonate with the masses. You would be doing the world a disservice to not share!
Allow your heart and soul to pour onto the page or canvas and stop looking at the creative process as something that needs to be never-before-seen and instead as something that has never-before-been-told-in-this-way.