Creativity Saboteur: Originality – and Why it Doesn’t Matter

Awhile ago, I was asked to join my friend Ann Quasman as a guest on her weekly radio show in Baltimore.*

As soon as Ann sent me the show date, I started brainstorming what my topic would be (or, I should say, as soon as the show date got close enough to be scary, I started brainstorming what my topic would be).

Anyway, I kept coming back to this idea of a “different” way of approaching New Year’s Resolutions. I thought about the questions I always ask my coaching clients at the start of a new year and, from there, I came up with my topic of Your Big, Bold, Bad-Ass Year: 5 Questions for Making this Year Your Most Creative Year Ever.

I LOVE this topic. The questions are fun, provocative and powerful – and I’ve used them (or questions like them) for the past decade or so as a way to step more fully into what I want for myself in the new year, and also as a reminder to practice what I want to work on for the next 365 days.

Then, I started to select the five questions I would use for the radio show. And this is when my GREAT idea for my topic almost flat-lined.  

While mulling over what the final couple of questions would be, I opened an email from a client that just happened to contain – you guessed it – a link to another creativity-forwarding company that just happened to have asked five thought leaders to each share their most powerful question for the start of a new year.


From that moment on – up until literally RIGHT NOW – it seems like everywhere I turn someone is publishing great, provocative, fun questions for people to ponder at the start of the New Year.

I mean there are question-related articles and podcasts and social media posts EVERYWHERE.

I realized that even though creativity was my personal slant on the types of questions I was developing for the WomanTalk Live radio show, the reality was that my questions had an awful lot in common with all the other questions I was finding.

So, I did what my gut told me I should do: I MOVED FORWARD WITH MY TOPIC AND QUESTIONS ANYWAY.

I did not get discouraged. I did not rethink my plan. I didn’t worry about making my questions different. Instead, I simply concentrated on making them what I wanted them to be.

What I learned a long time ago, and what I’ve noticed over and over again, both as a creative professional and as a human being with a passion for creating, is that originality is very rare.

No matter what you want to create, there will likely be someone or multiple someones who have already created your idea – or something very similar. Even more, once you do get your idea, it’s likely that, all of sudden, you’ll become aware of every single one of them. Those other similar (or even exactly the same) ideas will come out of the woodwork to haunt you.  

But here’s what I truly believe – and why I did not let my topic for the show flat-line:

Originality is overrated.

No one will ever deliver the message and/or creation the way you will.

There are people in the world who will only come in contact with the message and/or creation through your version of it – or will only be able to “get” your version of it.

And, in this sense, originality is ALWAYS true about your creations. They are original because they came from you and have your essence within them.

I’ve had so many clients who, once sparked by their big ideas, become immediately disheartened to learn they’re not original. Their first instinct is to stop and think up something else.

I tell them exactly what I shared above and they get it. They also get that even if they do think up something else, it’s more than likely the new idea will already exist, too.

In fact, I’ve never presented a thought about navigating a saboteur (in this case, a voice that says something like, “If my idea is not original, I shouldn’t pursue it.”) that isn’t easily uploaded and integrated by my clients – and fast.

I think this fact speaks to the idea that we all sort of know how hard it is to be original; that we realize that all of our ideas ARE original at their core, simply because they came from us; that we recognize we are cheating ourselves and the world to hold back a great idea just because somebody else finished their version of our idea first; and, finally, that we understand, innately, that we had the idea FOR A REASON.

To striving to be YOUR best rather than to be DIFFERENT.  

*Ann Quasman moved to Vermont and her Baltimore show is no longer on the air – we’ll miss it!

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