While many use this as an opportunity to vent their frustrations, I realized early on that if I keep posting about my own insecurities, these posts will start sounding very similar. So I decided to move away from "woe is me" and focus on motivation and encouragement, centering my IWSG posts on inspirational quotes from people I admire.
This month's quote comes from late speculative juggernaut C.S. Lewis, who is perhaps best known for his highly regarded fantasy series, The Chronicles of Narnia. I must admit I was never a huge fan of the Narnia books growing up, though I did enjoy The Space Trilogy as a kid.
While the religious themes beneath the surface of his popular works have sometimes proven divisive, C.S. Lewis' influence on the fantasy genre cannot be denied, nor his literary prowess. Thus, it seems somehow appropriate that an author whose work influenced so many had this to say:
"Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it."
I can't tell you how many times I've seen (insecure) writers asking their peers to critique the originality of their grand ideas in the various online writing communities I lurk. Hell, we've probably all had those thoughts from time to time. Has this been done before? Worse yet, is this overdone? We'd all like to think our Exciting New Thing exists only within the bowels of our minds until we wrench it out and get it written, but considering how long people have been telling stories, I think we just have to face the facts: damn near everything has been done already, probably more than once. There have been books and books written about the fact that most of us are just telling the same stories over and over again.
But that's okay. Every artist worth a hill o' beans in this world is influenced by the things around them and the experiences they've accumulated, including the books they read, the movies they watch, and the stories they were told when they were tucked into bed at night. That influence is not a bad thing. More importantly, finding true originality is not just about a story's premise or character archetypes. As Mr. Lewis puts it, it's about telling the truth.
What on Earth does that mean? I can only tell you what it means for me. For me, it means pouring as much of myself onto that page as I can muster. It's about finding my own personal truths (some of which might take a lifetime to find) and putting them to work. Every time I sit down to write, I aim to chisel off a little chunk of my soul, grind it down with a mortar and pestle, and sprinkle the remnants all over my fiction. Because no matter how often the world may have been told the same old stories time and time again, I can guarantee they've never met a creature like me before.
And they've never met you, either. So the next time you find yourself worrying over the originality of that story you've been tinkering around with, switch gears. Focus on yourself and your relationship with the story you're telling. Put a little you in it. If you're honest about it, chances are you'll find something original, even if by accident.