Annnd for today’s topic: Inspiration. One thing that everyone seems to look for nowadays is an original idea, which is absolutely great if you have one. Originality is so sought after because it’s so hard to come by because there are over seven billion people alive today. The Population Reference Bureau estimates that a whopping 107 billion people have ever lived thus far.
So it shouldn’t be difficult to wrap your head around just how rare an original idea is. Pretty much every thought you will think has, in some form, been thought before. Assuming that you may be a creator of some kind, this shouldn’t be a source of discouragement, but rather inspiration. Try thinking of it as a shortcut. Think about all the time you don’t have to waste forming the intricacies of your idea. That time could instead be nixed by outlining the steps someone before you has taken and molding it into your own.
Now, I want to be clear in saying that I’m not recommending that you copy anyone or anything. In fact, I want to expressly say do not do that. But I also want to be clear when I say you should never be ashamed in taking advice or being motivated by the work of someone before you as long as you make it your own. I may even go as far as saying it should definitely be included in the creative process. Not to say that you’re not creative or original, because you very may well be, but I’m sure you’ve heard of the age-old example. If you were to write a book that is word-for-word and page-for-page To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee without ever having read it, is it original? You may think so but the world will not, and artists sort of depend on the opinions of others.
Take my own project for example: My novel in progress takes primarily inspiration from two novels (American Gods by Neil Gaiman and Wild Seed by Octavia Butler), a video game (Kingdom Hearts directed by Tetsuya Nomura), and a manga (Noragami by Adachitoka). And a lot more if you count all the writing techniques I’ve studied and the success of similar works. So I hope you understand that I practice what I preach, so to speak. While it is largely an inspired piece, in essence, it is also something new, right? Therefore, why can’t something from inspiration be considered original?
If anything, I think being able to take into account the work of previous creators is an admirable quality. It shows how devoted you really are to the idea that you’ve taken the next step and are doing research. Originality is so sought after because it’s fresh and new and appealing. But, to quote comedian Bo Burnham, “original does not mean good.” Striving for originality is a commendable pursuit, sure, but you should also come to terms with the varying levels of originality. You may really have something completely brand new, or something that looks and feels familiar with a new face. I guess where I’m going with this is that being original should never really be the goal. You take inspiration from things because they were successful. I’ve seen first-hand as original ideas scrap the things that brought past projects success for the sake of originality. Trust me, it’s not worth it. You should be aiming for success, and if you manage to check the original box along the way, then two birds, one stone.