Surmounting Writing Obstacles: Lack of Originality

Fear is the mind killer.
–Frank Herbert

I’m taking an online course on writing short stories, and in this week’s call, one of the instructors offered this advice to one of my fellow students:

If you worry that your idea has already been done, you’ll never write a word.

That was the best thing I’ve heard in months.

I have been crippled on my fiction WIP because I have all these ideas I think are so clever, but then I find that someone else in the same genre has already thought of it and used it in their stories. That realization has made me so demoralized and unable to progress on my story.

In my head, I knew that there are really no original ideas, but you can explore them in an original manner. But, my heart had forgotten that lesson. Somehow, hearing the instructor say it, reminded my heart of that truth. (Why is it that sometimes you need to hear from an “expert” to really believe something?)

My plan for the week is to print out my WIP so that I can incorporate the changes I want to make to the main storyline and assess the story so far. I will not worry that sometimes my ideas have been used by other writers. My take on the concepts will be my own, and the ideas are essential to the story and to the world I have built.

What about you?

  • How has fear that your work is derivative affected your writing?
  • What strategies have you created to deal with it?
  • How does this particular fear differ in the fiction and nonfiction realms?

3 thoughts on “Surmounting Writing Obstacles: Lack of Originality

  1. Really good question. People say there’s nothing new under the sun, but that’s rubbish. I totally agree that the real soul of a story is not the main idea but what is done with it. And one idea isn’t usually enough on its own – you have to add so much more.

    Musicians have it even worse than writers. They’re always being told there are only 88 notes on a piano, so all the songs in the world have already been written. Rubbish.

    1. To tell you the truth, I think the thing that bothered me the most was that I was nowhere near as clever as I thought I was. That always hurts! But, the way I’m handling the ideas that other writers have also come up with is either different or more in depth, so I’m over it.

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