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Is Originality Dead?

A while ago I read a little book on creativity called Hegarty on Creativity – There are No Rules by Sir John Hegarty. It was very interesting and informative, but one thing specifically stuck with me.

The author claims that there is no such thing as an original idea any more. At a time where everything has been done or at least tried before, everything we want to create will ultimately have been inspired by something which already exists. Since everything we do will be influenced by something we’ve seen or read or heard somewhere, it can’t be original. To be exact, he says:

“It is said that God was the last originator and the rest of us are just copyists. And the truth is that everything we create is based on something that’s gone before. […] Ideas borrow, blend, subvert, develop, and bounce off other ideas. So it’s an arrogance to say your idea is original. […] Being different and daring is important, but original? No. Now blatantly stealing someone else’s idea is wrong. But thinking that your idea is original is also wrong. Your idea only exists in relation to another idea. We all stand on each other’s shoulders and in doing so hopefully see further.” (p.20)

And I completely get it. I understand what he means. So much so that, every time I now hear people claim that what they do is original and has never been done before, I want to punch them in the face. I’m not a violent person so you can see what this book has done to me.

But is it true? Is originality truly dead? While it’s nice to think of your idea as something never seen before, how sure can you be that you’re correct? After all, something gave you that idea you’re now wanting to work with. It’s unlikely that your idea was born from nothing, with no cues or inspiration or reasons.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this! Do you agree that originality is dead? Or would you say that it’s all a load of rubbish?ย 


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  1. I do think it’s hard to find a truly, new idea because on some level most concepts have been touched upon. I think originality and creativity is in taking a potentially old concept and giving it a fresh spin. I don’t think originality is dead, I think it’s taken on new meaning ๐Ÿ™‚

    • That’s a good way of looking at it, and possibly the only way in which we can still be original these days. Although you have to wonder if people like Tolkien ever thought that everything had been done already!

  2. I don’t think there’s no such thing as an original idea, but I feel like it’s much more difficult to sell an original idea to an audience, which is why we get the same ideas recycled over and over.

    For example, it’s far easier to sell a Transformers movie to an audience that already craves watching robots fight each other. It’s easier to sell a zombie story to an audience that wants to see zombies. However, just try to sell an audience on an original idea of a banana finding love with an orange while each stare out the same window for two hours (I’ve never heard of that idea, anyway).

    So I believe it’s more of a matter of what ideas sell to audiences, what audiences want, rather than there being no original ideas left. Of course someone can come up with an original idea, but selling that idea is the key, which is why I think that if we do see original ideas now, they tend to be grounded in concepts that we’ve seen before, so as to gain the interest of an audience. You know, use an old idea to introduce a new idea.

    By the way, can we call Minions an original idea? Ba-ba-ba Ba-ba-nana! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • You’re right there, ideas which have proven to work well keep getting recycled (have you ever heard that – when you strip both down to their most basic aspects – Star Wars ‘A New Hope’ and Spiderman are essentially the same movie?). Screenwriters and movie makers know what their audiences like, so they keep reusing the same ideas.

      Having said that, I’d happily watch a movie about a banana falling in love with an orange! Maybe minus the staring-out-a-window part. And maybe if pixar did it. I bet they could pull it off… ๐Ÿ™‚

      Minions specifically in the form of a yellow blob maybe, but annoying little side-kicks? That’s not new ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Haha! Too true!

        Yeah, if Pixar did that idea, I’m sure it’d be amazing. ๐Ÿ™‚

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