What Does It Mean To Be Original?

By October 30, 2018 Musings

The word original has many different connotations and interpretations.

Some would say that to be original is to do something that has never been done before, created something that’s never been created or thought something that’s never been thought.

Others might think of original as being first: the first presentation or the unveiling.

I like to think of originality as an inside-out job, aptly described in the words of Judy Garland: “Always be a first-rate version of yourself instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”

To be original means to challenge oneself to think in ways that likely build upon the ideas of others, but not copy them. I would argue that originality is always built upon something that already exists. After all, everything that exists today has been built upon something that has existed in one way or another before.

Matter exists.

Energy exists.

Without the work of those that have gone on before us, we would be operating as if in a new-found world.

The French writer Andre Gide said: “Everything that needs to be said has already been said, but, since nobody was listening, everything must be said again.” 

I would change that slightly to say that, even if everything has been said, it hasn’t been in YOUR voice, with YOUR interpretation, with YOUR point of view.

That’s why originality starts from within you.

Some say it’s good to steal ideas. I say let’s borrow them and build upon them to make them even better.

I know many people who say: “What’s the point? It’s all been said before.”

And that might be true.

But not in your voice. And your voice counts.

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