What if your project no longer feels unique to you.

  • Do you ever wonder while you start laying your foundations of your project that it's not original enough?
    Well, I have this problem every time I tried to write my own stories and ideas. At some point, I have this doubt around the overall plot that I get this feeling of it being too similar to either that I've saw or done before. It could be the anxiety of plagiarising or you just don't want to repeat yourself, thoughts like this can make you either not pushing forward or simply abandon it altogether. A block like this might happen at the beginning stage in the process or worse during the middle of it.

    If you have an experience like this, please reply.

  • @2MK this is a common feeling. As someone who has spoken to many writers and film people, there is no such thing as true originality, all stories have been done before in some way shape or form. Now I know this isn’t the answer you wanna hear, but hear me out.

    You as an person with a brain, have been exposed to certain ideas and influences. And so have other people. Those are the confines in which we can come up with things. Kinda how you cant imagine a new color because you have never been exposed to it. We invent tools to help us push beyond those limitations but even with tools, they are still limiting because we created tools to help us with something we’re already aware of. But you can gradually adjust these things to improve or change them just enough to be a different thing.

    For example, think about alll the zombie movies and shows that exist. THERE SSO MANYYY. But people will keep making them because each one is a little different. Theres a show on Amazon Prime “In The Flesh” which is a zombie show, zombies still do zombie things but they asked “well what if people who become zombies, are cured of their zombie disease?” (Which has been done several times) but they really do a good job addressing questions like how do they rejoin society? Will people treat them a certain way knowing they used to be zombies? Etc.
    or think about all of the vampire movies you’ve seen, some are about love, some are about violence, some about loneliness, some are straight up horror. But none of these are really about vampires 😉

    it’s not really original but it’s a lot more interesting because of the questions it raises not because of the zombies but because of the themes and ideas it addresses.

    That said, you might have to re-evaluate what originality means to you. Personally I enjoy remakes of movies that have an interesting adaptation to it. I see that as originality. Maybe ask yourself some questions like,
    why is this story important to you?
    Why are you doing this story?
    Do you like your story?
    What is the point of your story?
    What do you or don’t you like about it?
    Why does being original matter to you so much?
    Has another person taken a look at the story and given you feedback? (Ya gotta get feedback on writing otherwise it will be awful)

    Anyway sorry for the rant, hope this helps, if you wanna throw ideas in my face and get feedback im willing to help (im sure many people on here would be too)

  • @2MK I just wrote a few walls of text and deleted them all :smiling_face_with_open_mouth_cold_sweat:

    But here's another wall of text 🙂

    Yes, I feel the way you do all the time. It's fine. It's normal.

    Here's my advice.

    Do the thing. If your two choices are the doing the thing which has been done before, or NOT doing the thing, then do the thing that has been done before. At least that way, YOU WILL HAVE DONE A THING.

    The creative process no matter what field always involves what looks like copying/plagiarizing/borrowing. We build on what we know and what we love. If we discard everything that we know and love that someone else has done before, we're left with nothing 🙂

    Think of it this way. You stand on a path that leads through thick jungle (like, darkest jungle that you can't walk through without the aid of a machete, and even then you progress only a foot or two per hour). The jungle is FILLED with neat things (treasure 'n ruined temples 'n stuff) but they're near impossible to find. The path is the way that everyone has gone before, but you can SEE the path. You COULD hack through the jungle as best you could, but you wouldn't get anywhere (and while there are one or two people who decided to hack their way through the jungle and found neat things, the chances of this happening to you are sliiiiim).

    But the path will take you places.

    It may take you to a fork in the road that leads in a direction you never would have thought to go. It may lead to a thinner part of the jungle where you can see a really cool place no one's been before. It may lead to a place where like-minded people gather, who will point you in the right direction. But you'll only get to these place if you walk down that path EVERYONE has been down before.

    Most people spend a few minutes cutting at the jungle before giving up, sitting on the path and going nowhere. I suppose the path is gravelled with their bones in this metaphor since there are SO MANY OF THEM.

    Some people walk down that path and do cool things.

    Walk down that path. Do the thing.

  • A lot of wise things have said by @Aleksey and @Braden-Hallett.

    Yes. I also feel the way you do all the time. I am glad to hear other people say it is okay and normal.

    A few things I find it helpful:

    1. One famous writer once said (I think it was Ursula Le Guin, not 100% sure) - the story is about the telling. It is not so much about coming up with a completely original idea; it is about how you carry out an idea. I think @Lee-White also said something similar in several lectures "Do the common thing uncommonly well." But to do a thing well, one must do it over and over again. So do the thing, an don't worry about the originality too much in the beginning.

    2. It helps to do a bunch of small projects which are in the direction of where you want to go. Completing small projects helps to build momentum and confidence that you can finish a project. It is also much easier to test stuff out with a small project before you commit a significant chunk of time on something. If you are into comics/graphic novels, for example, try to create a few short stories before committing to a 200page graphic novel. (I made that mistake a few times during the last 4 years, hard lesson to learn)

    3. Try out some ideation techniques. Find some methods that can generate a lot of ideas without you invest much time in a specific one. In addition, try to find techniques/tools that allow you to explore an idea from different angles before you commit to it. The process of exploring different ideas and exploring a single idea from different angles will make you feel much more confident with the final idea you committed to. I took a class with @Lee-White and @davidhohn on SVS recently. Their thumbnailing and concept mapping technique was very helpful for me to generate ideas for an illustration piece. I am sure there are ideation techniques out there that work for story writing as well.

    This was a long reply. Hope it makes sense somehow.

  • @2MK You've struck a chord and I'll echo what @Aleksey @Braden-Hallett and @xin-li have said.

    I think your question is a little like "when will I develop my own style?" Just like with ideas for stories, how and what you draw is heavily influenced by what you've seen and what you think about. And when you draw them enough, you cannot HELP but imprint your own style or voice. You simply cannot help yourself. When you've done it "enough"--and the only way to get to that magic place of what's enough for you-is when you've done the stuff.

    Write, play it out, rewrite, listen again (better yet if you have someone else listen), rewrite---and finish it. I'm working hard on taking my own advice-but its helping. Fast enough? Well..... I'm exploring this as a marathon, not a sprint, and I'll only run my first marathon at whatever pace I can run it. But so much better than sitting on the couch! (full disclosure, i do not run marathons or run at all. But I do a mean bicycyle-thing!)

    Glad you're joining the crowd of asking and exploring.

Log in to reply