The Impossible (and the Possible) Quest

I’ll never forget him.  His name was John.  I really didn’t know him all that well, but he was a fellow English major back when I went to college, and he shared several of the same classes with me.  John was passionate about writing, creating, coming up with something new.

“That’s what I want, more than anything,” he said to me one crisp fall day as we exited our class on Victorian literature.  It was the kind of clean, fresh, fragrant western New York October afternoon that makes your eyes water, the air is so pure.   “To come up with something different, something no one’s ever written before.  Some completely new idea!”

original

 

 

I shrugged, smiled.  He had expressed this to me (and anyone who would listen) before.  I had never really responded, though–until now . . .

“You know,” I said.  “I think, maybe, you’re not looking at this in quite the right way.”  Not the best choice of words, perhaps, but I just felt he needed to hear me out.

And he did . . .

*************************

I can relate to John’s quest.  I think any writer can.  Anyone who has ever created anything, written anything, painted anything, anyone who’s penned the lyrics of a song or the musical notes of a ballad, anyone who has ever dreamed of reaching up into the sky on a lazy summer day and grabbing hold of a billowy, passing cloud just to experience the exhilaration of it all can relate.  We all want to be unique.  We want to do what no one has ever achieved before.  We want our voices to be heard.

creativity

 

The thing is, though–there are no truly new ideas.  Every story has been told.  The ex-con who wants a second chance after he serves time for his wrongdoing?  It’s been told.  The jilted lover who vows revenge on the creep who wronged her?  It’s been told.  The lunatic fan of a writer who captures him and tortures him in her remote Colorado home?  That’s been told, too.

misery

 

miserybates

 

The three seventh-graders who share the same dream of a mysterious “ghost girl,” and who tell their troubles to the class genius, which, in turn, kicks off a wild, imaginative journey across the void?  Yes.  That’s been told, too . . .

ed

 

Does this mean we’re all doomed?  That all artists, all creators of any kind are all relegated to endless regurgitations of the same, chewed-over themes and ideas?  To a degree, yes.  But, to a greater degree–absolutely not.  Even though every story has been told a thousand times over, a thousand-thousand times over, there is still much room for originality and “newness.”  But how?  On the surface, this appears to be a contradiction.  How can we offer anything new or different when everything’s already been done?

If we are talking strictly about ideas, themes, plots, techniques, as my friend John was–then yes.  It is impossible to be unique.  But that’s not what we’re talking about.  We are talking about individuals, writers, artists–people.  You and me.  You might write a story about a jilted lover who vows revenge.  Is that “new”?  Of course not.  But!  This particular jilted lover arises from your own imagination, which, in turn, is nurtured and shaped by your own circumstances, perspectives, points of view, experiences, outlooks, and a multitude of other aspects that are uniquely yours.  These aspects, these attributes, then, become the guiding force behind your tale.  They give newness and vitality to your voice.  They present the world with a picture, a story, a creation that only you could have made.

voice

 

The idea may be as old as time itself.  But the essence, the heart of the story–that is what you bring to it.  A contradiction?  Perhaps.  But I believe it is also the truth.  We all tell the same stories.  And yet . . . we all tell different stories, too, stories that are autographed by our own imaginary and unique fingerprints.

So, John, old friend–if you’re reading this . . . somewhere . . . your quest to create something new and different is in fact possible.  Just write what you feel, write what you fear, write what you hate, write what you love.  From your perspective.

Then share it with the world.

And rest assured . . .

We’ve never seen anything like it before.

writing

 

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

61 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Charles Yallowitz
    Jul 18, 2013 @ 18:47:13

    Excellent advice. I gave up trying for truly unique in college when I realized everything had a source. My goal is to make something entertaining and gripping with characters that people remember after they close the book.

    Reply

  2. Charles Yallowitz
    Jul 18, 2013 @ 18:48:02

    Reblogged this on Legends of Windemere and commented:
    An amazing and insightful opinion on unique stories and if it’s possible to write something that hasn’t been done.

    Reply

  3. Wanderer
    Jul 18, 2013 @ 18:54:34

    This is such a great reminder!

    Reply

  4. Barbara Monier
    Jul 18, 2013 @ 19:45:20

    Nice, Mike!

    Reply

  5. sarahremy
    Jul 18, 2013 @ 19:48:13

    A new way to tell the same story. Can even a writer’s ‘voice’ be unique?

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jul 19, 2013 @ 15:45:25

      I think it can, yes, absolutely! It depends on how we go about it. If we are writing from a purely creative and imaginative place, letting the ideas inside us flow, then I think each person does indeed have a unique voice.

      Reply

  6. tjtherien
    Jul 18, 2013 @ 20:06:40

    I truly believe there is no such thing as original thought, it’s all been thought before. That being said I have devised a fixed form of structured poetry that I do believe is original… I still haven’t seen a form that similar enough to take my name of the concept. Also another idea I am working on is writing a story that defies genre and conventional storytelling method. I am writing stream of conscious and without edit and posting it as I write it…the idea is too big to be put into the confines of a book, or even a series of books. I am at the beginning stages with it but am satisfied that what I am doing is original…while expanding on existing ideas… If a writer does come up with something that is completely original then it is probably by accident more than intent. my poetry form was an idea I had after a month of long hours studying fixed form poetry…could some one else have come up with this form, I am sure they could and probably did, it’s just that I was not influenced by it and it is original to me…

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jul 19, 2013 @ 15:48:05

      Very interesting points! I maintain, though, that a writer’s perspective and voice are unique to them. You’re right–ideas, forms, themes–there is nothing original to be found there. But there is only one you–and only you can write in the way you do . . .

      Reply

      • tjtherien
        Jul 19, 2013 @ 15:51:01

        I’m not in disagreement it is voice that differentiates us that is where we are unique

  7. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83
    Jul 18, 2013 @ 20:21:06

    Very good advice Mike. Even those who have lived together for a lifetime don’t think the same way. Every point of view is important.

    Reply

  8. honeydidyouseethat?
    Jul 18, 2013 @ 22:56:30

    As always, very thoughtful. Loved your “Misery” reference. Scared the BeJesus out of me.

    Reply

  9. dannadesigns
    Jul 18, 2013 @ 23:27:36

    Great and inspiring post! 🙂

    Reply

  10. suddenlylostinwords
    Jul 18, 2013 @ 23:58:13

    Wonderfully said! 🙂

    Reply

  11. Pamela Koefoed
    Jul 19, 2013 @ 01:41:33

    You said it so well. It’s true isn’t it? We all want to hear from those who write with their hearts.

    “Just write what you feel, write what you fear, write what you hate, write what you love. From your perspective.

    Then share it with the world.”

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jul 19, 2013 @ 15:50:39

      Yes–as long as you write what is uniquely inside of you, with your own perspectives and feelings–you bring something truly new and different to the world. I will always believe that. Thanks so much for your comments!:)

      Reply

  12. howanxious
    Jul 19, 2013 @ 07:02:55

    the thing we all have to accept is that we are different beings with our own ideologies, believes, perspectives and most importantly we have our own separate lives… and that is what makes us unique in our writing.
    A wise post… thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Reply

  13. WordsFallFromMyEyes
    Jul 19, 2013 @ 11:12:37

    Mike, this is a great post. It’s Friday night, I’m cruising, & this totally engaged me. Thank you heaps.

    Reply

  14. Charron's Chatter
    Jul 19, 2013 @ 14:45:45

    you get to the heart of it, Mike. I once considered how Shakespeare (debatebly) had already written all there was to say–and said it best–but then, Mozart already mastered the piano, Pavarotti already topped the tenors…and yet we all sing and play and create. It is the best part of the human way.

    Reply

  15. Fashion Mayann
    Jul 19, 2013 @ 15:00:54

    Thanks for writing such an inspiring post which truly “speaks” to me !

    Reply

  16. Anne Chia
    Jul 19, 2013 @ 15:11:19

    This is so true. Unfortunately, nobody is the connoisseur of any idea. What sets our ideas apart, is our ability to act on it at an opportune/right time, and when we put heart and soul in, it gives it that unique touch

    Reply

  17. Sam Han
    Jul 19, 2013 @ 15:42:24

    Bravo! I hope John finally gets your view, somewhere out there, perhaps telepathy? It’s true there may no longer be/have an original “recipe” but every “cook” has a “unique” rendition to the same recipe 😀

    Reply

  18. fashionassist
    Jul 20, 2013 @ 03:14:40

    So glad to hear we’re not all doomed because at times one can feel so ‘unoriginal’…
    but you’re right, each of us is an ‘original’ being–no two are alike…
    so writing from our own perspective would keep things ‘original’…
    but would it keep things interesting???
    You threw out lots of good thoughts–thanks 😉

    Reply

  19. stormy1812
    Jul 20, 2013 @ 05:49:36

    this is pretty well timed for me… i was just feeling like what i write is so incredibly trite, it’s all regurgitated, boring and who wants to read that? i may still need work on finessing my delivery, etc., but this helps me feel better that perhaps there’s hope. 🙂 as usual… well said!

    Reply

  20. Freda Moya
    Jul 22, 2013 @ 21:38:16

    Really interesting post. On the money as always. 🙂 I am always surprised as I read back through my work how I subconsciously absorb ideas from other sources, whether that be literature I have read, films I have seen, people I have met or in fact my own experiences. I don’t often think about it. I just write and then look back and go “Oh! So THAT’S where that came from! You are right. We are all influenced by so many different things. And I often look at other artists in different fields and wonder “How did you come up with that? It’s so original! So different! I wish I could do that. But I guess they all went through this too.

    Reply

  21. Sherri
    Jul 24, 2013 @ 11:37:03

    Excellent post Mike! Absolutely…the story may have been told before, but it’s the way each of us tells it with our own unique perspective that matters. Thanks for this encouragement, I for one certainly need it 🙂

    Reply

  22. skywanderer
    Jul 25, 2013 @ 15:05:48

    This is such a lovely post to read, so well thought-out, superbly written and so inspiring!

    Reading your blog always makes my day – it feels indeed like entering another world, a so much more human world than what we call reality 🙂

    Reply

  23. mummyshymz
    Jul 26, 2013 @ 01:44:41

    Good advice!

    Reply

  24. charmsofagypsy
    Jul 28, 2013 @ 12:12:42

    I like the new layout of your page! 🙂 Maybe it’s not quite “so new” but I’ve been MIA in the blogger world for awhile. Looks like I’ll have to make a comeback! Excellent post, as always. Great advice!

    Reply

  25. FreeRangeCow
    Jul 31, 2013 @ 13:36:12

    Ahhh. “The Quest.” Nice post! I love how you get me thinking!

    Reply

  26. reocochran
    Aug 06, 2013 @ 01:43:35

    Yes, nothing is entirely “new” but there are so many directions, creative thoughts to make unique stories and I hope we all will be able to make a “new” message, one way or another through the use of our gifts.

    Reply

  27. Kim 24/7 in France
    Aug 06, 2013 @ 15:48:07

    Great post – we do indeed each have our own voice!

    Reply

  28. stockdalewolfe
    Aug 09, 2013 @ 18:23:31

    I think writing is the one thing that improves as you get older– maybe you learn to find your voice. A good post. I forget who it was who said to write what you know.
    Like you said, in your own way.

    Reply

  29. dilipnaidu
    Aug 16, 2013 @ 08:29:27

    Very interesting and inspiring too!
    Thanks.

    Reply

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