Where the hell are you supposed to get the ideas for all of the awesome, unique content that’s going to keep your audience coming back for more?
It’s a difficult question to answer.
Most believe that originality is an individual effort. That coming up with kick ass innovative content and reaching the ‘genius’ level is a solo endeavour, one which requires a great deal of inward focus.
But that’s bullshit.
Seriously. I know we’re all unique people who are inspiring in our own ways, but the chances of having a truly original thought are next to nothing. Our ancestors have been around for about 6 million years, modern civilisation is estimated to be 6000 years old and there’s somewhere in the region of 7.125 billion people on the planet.
Do you really think that someone, somewhere at some point in time hasn’t thought the exact same thing as you?
Of course they have! So stop worrying about pulling an awesome idea out of thin air because it’s not going to happen.
That’s not to say there’s no hope for those who want to produce something innovative and exciting. After all, original developments are still being made every single day.
So what’s the budding original content producer to do if there’s no such thing as originality? Where can we get awesome kick ass ideas that make waves and blaze trails?
In short, we steal them.
Yup, that’s right. We head out into the world and steal what’s already there.
Before you get all high and mighty on me let me explain what I mean by this. Stealing an idea is not simply the act of copying exactly what’s already there.
It’s about taking what’s there and making it your own. Adding a new twist, a unique perspective and your individual voice to the topic. As Pablo Picasso said, “good artists copy, great artists steal”.
But stealing an idea and making it yours isn’t easy.
Just taking the topic of a popular article or topic isn’t enough to really stand out. Writing another article on originality after reading this one won’t attract or amaze, it’s just going to disappear in the mass of other originality articles online.
The key to successfully stealing an idea and creating something unique is to examine the relationship between your topic of choice and the discoveries that have already been made.
It’s All About Connections and Relationships
There’s 26 letters in the English alphabet. Always has been, always will be.
But with a fundamental base of only 26 letters we created over 1 million words which in turn have spawned countless original works.
When writers connect the dots in different ways and form new relationships between these existing, unchanging building blocks something new and original is born.
They take the linguistic discoveries that have already been made and establish a new relationships to create something original.
Different combinations of only 26 letters have managed to produce countless literary works. From the likes of Shakespeare, to trashy romance novels, sci-fi epics and even boring business communication.
Unique and original content is still being created through different connections and combinations of only 26 fundamental building blocks.
Check out these book publishing stars for 2013 from the International Publishers Association.
For the UK alone that’s nearly 200,000 new, original works in one year alone. All of which have simply connected the original 26 letters in different ways.
With such a vast amount of originality still being born from only 26 basic blocks, are you still worried about finding new and original ideas? I hope not.
Now I know that example may not have been the best to demonstrate how to form new ideas. Language itself isn’t an idea but is the medium we as writers use to communicate our originality. It does help demonstrate my belief that a huge number of new, original ideas and relationships can be created from a very small number of ‘original’ elements, but perhaps a few other examples will help you understand how to apply this to real life.
Let’s start off with a stolen idea that led to Henry Ford revolutionising an industry.
He revolutionised the automobile industry by creating the assembly line. Do you know where he got the idea? He didn’t come up with it whilst pondering the complexities of automobile construction locked in his ‘thinking room’.
No, he flat-out stole the idea when he visited a meat-packing plant. He noticed the relationship between their packing method (dividing the process into specialised tasks) and the factory’s effectiveness.
He then looked at how he could bring this method of production to his own factory. The innovative assembly line was born and car manufacturing was changed forever.
Here’s one more.
The development of the Japanese bullet train was furthered thanks to the study of nature. Eiji Nakatsu headed the technical department and after witnessing a Kingfisher dive into water for a meal, re designed the nose of the train.
He formed a connection between natural design and his area of expertise. He took an existing idea and used it to bring innovation to the industry creating what are renowned as the safest, fastest trains in the world.
It’s no different when it comes to writing.
Sure the idea might already exist. It might even be heavily covered by other writers but you’ve got to remember that they’re not you.
You are an individual and have a unique perspective. Being original isn’t coming up with something no one has ever thought of before, it’s seeing a connection that others have not. Noticing the relationship between your niche and things already existing.
Where are these Relationships and Connections?
Everywhere, but it’s up to you to notice them.
Get away from your writing hole. Forget about work to watch some trash TV. Read the thoughts of those more experienced, absorb yourself in a novel, catch up on the news and watch documentaries.
Dive deep into the inner workings, ideas and philosophies of your niche, but expose yourself to the world outside of your focus as well. Take part in unfamiliar activities, challenge yourself to do more but most importantly – pay attention and listen.
You don’t have to spend every second of every day tapping out words. That’s a surefire way to creative destitution and burning yourself out. Enjoy your time off and strive to learn about areas outside of your niche.
There’s countless stories of writers who have found their next big idea or copywriters who have produced a killer ad simply by paying attention when they’re not at work.
There are no new ideas under the sun, but that’s OK. Originality doesn’t come from the idea itself, but from the way you perceive it, the relationships you notice and how you add your voice to the discussion.
Do yourself a favour and get out to see what relationships and connections you can make.
Image – woodleywonderworks