“It’s impossible to be original these days!!” she told me, throwing her hands in the air into total frustration and defeat.
My dear friend was nearly in tears expressing her frustration to me during our lunch date.
I compassionately nodded and let out sighs of understanding as she vented all her fears around starting a new side project she’d been dreaming about for years. Her tender heart wanted so badly to express itself, and yet she couldn’t bring herself to take action and make it happen.
Her main objection?
That there were so many people out in the world doing the same or similar things so there was no way she could be original.
I felt a pang in my heart as soon as she said it. That all too familiar imposter feeling was rearing its ugly head and attempting to silence the little seed of inspiration that was growing inside her.
Then I got pissed.
How many women are there in the world right now actively preventing themselves from sharing their authentic voice and creative gifts with the world because they are afraid of being seen as “unoriginal”?
Too many, that’s how many!
So I’m going to tell you what I told my friend that day…
Nothing is original.
All creative work builds on what came before it.
This is the nature of humanity.
As you walk through life, you weave together the fabric of who you are through your experiences and what you are naturally drawn to. Your family life, where you grew up, what smells you love, your major in college, your travels, your favorite colors, etc. All of those contribute to your own unique being and help to craft what you express in the world.
As Austin Kleon puts it, “You are a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.”
So yes, you are taking bits of inspiration from other people and things in the world to make your thing, but this does not make you unoriginal. It makes you a living, breathing, creative human.
The late David Bowie was once asked if he was original, and he responded that he was more of a “tasteful thief.” If one of the most daringly creative, inspiring, sparkling humans of our lifetime is embracing it, then I think it’s OK if you do too.
All that being said, there are some lines you shouldn’t cross when it comes to being your own tasteful thief and you likely know when you cross them.
This is why crediting your source is super important. Giving a nod to the people and things that contributed to your body of work is what keeps this beautiful recycling and re-purposing of ideas moving forward.
Take what you’ve been inspired by and turning it into your own thing. Don’t let your fear of unoriginality hold you back, sister.
Photo Credit: Sophia Mavrides