Originality vs. Authenticity - Permission

Big magic: creative living beyond fear - Elizabeth Gilbert 2015

Originality vs. Authenticity

Maybe you fear that you are not original enough.

Maybe that’s the problem—you’re worried that your ideas are commonplace and pedestrian, and therefore unworthy of creation.

Aspiring writers will often tell me, “I have an idea, but I’m afraid it’s already been done.”

Well, yes, it probably has already been done. Most things have already been done—but they have not yet been done by you.

By the time Shakespeare was finished with his run on life, he’d pretty much covered every story line there is, but that hasn’t stopped nearly five centuries of writers from exploring the same story lines all over again. (And remember, many of those stories were already clichés long before even Shakespeare got his hands on them.) When Picasso saw the ancient cave paintings at Lascaux, he reportedly said, “We have learned nothing in twelve thousand years”—which is probably true, but so what?

So what if we repeat the same themes? So what if we circle around the same ideas, again and again, generation after generation? So what if every new generation feels the same urges and asks the same questions that humans have been feeling and asking for years? We’re all related, after all, so there’s going to be some repetition of creative instinct. Everything reminds us of something. But once you put your own expression and passion behind an idea, that idea becomes yours.

Anyhow, the older I get, the less impressed I become with originality. These days, I’m far more moved by authenticity. Attempts at originality can often feel forced and precious, but authenticity has quiet resonance that never fails to stir me.

Just say what you want to say, then, and say it with all your heart.

Share whatever you are driven to share.

If it’s authentic enough, believe me—it will feel original.