Like dialing your rival at the same moment they try to dial you, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone at the same time as Elisha Gray. Bell got to the patent office first and legally received the credit and fame, but were they both being original? It’s your call?
A certain number of people read the same news, watch the same movie, face the same problem and have a collective ah-ha moment to offer a collective solution. You could be thinking of a “new” idea and unbeknownst to you, somebody on the other side of the globe is thinking the same thing. It’s discouraging to come up with a “original” idea only to enter a few keywords into a search engine to find others are already standing in the same space.
Paul Bloom described in a TED talk how especially in the arts, we appreciate originals more than copies. He tells how a once admired masterpiece lost its value when it was discovered to be forged and how a gifted violinist, who was appreciated in concert was largely ignored when anonymously playing at a train station.
What can you to do to be original? As you are saturated with information, does too much stimulation prevent you from being original? A talented artist and prolific writer Val Erde recently asked the good question: “I do think that the more I’m on the internet – certainly with my habit of always filling up my mind with stuff I read on it – the less creative I am in terms of originality. Does it affect you the same way?”
Of course we are all influenced by our environment. Filling our heads with the latest thinking on subjects is like seeding our own clouds for a future rain storm of ideas. Everything we do is done in our own way and is somewhat original.
Some people believe that art is a reflection of our environment and culture -so as the kaleidoscope of our world changes, so does what we produce. Don’t worry so much if someone else is doing something similar – do your own thing and soon your brief overlaps will dissipate.
“Yes, one may make mistakes, one may perhaps exaggerate here or there, but the thing one makes will be original. You have read in Rappard’s letter the words: “I used to make things now in this, then in that style, without sufficient personality: but these last drawings have at least a character of their own, and I feel that I have found my way.” I feel almost the same thing now.” described Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo, c. 22 June 1883
We all have a unique experience and we all express things differently – as you put some words together, draw some lines, or dance, it’s possible someone else has done this before but when you add your own context and write a paragraph, paint a picture, dance a number, then it’s likely to say that this hasn’t been done exactly the same way. Does awareness of others increase or decrease your originality?