Recently I was ranting about my desire to burn down the library after coming across a book with very similar premise to my current work in process. I had thought my idea was so original and different! Yet here it was, taunting and pointing at me from the bookshelf!
“I’m here first,” it sang at me snidely. And I did not respond diplomatically. I may have startled the nearby patrons with my cranky retort.
Of course the book wasn’t exactly the same idea. Just a similar concept….sigh…but still…
I raged to my writing group, who put their virtual arms around me in comfort. They told me to just make it mine, do it better than other author had, or that by the time mine was ready for release the other would be ages old and forgotten, if it was even noticed in the first place. But I was still cranky and dismayed. I sort of wanted to set fire to something.
However my outlook changed a bit today. I was listening to the TED Radio episode Where Do Good Ideas Come From– and it made me feel TONS better. Writer Steven Johnson essentially said that there is no such thing as an original idea anymore. That innovation comes from taking ideas and repurposing them to make them your own. And that does seem true. It goes along with the idea that there are really essentially only seven different story plots.
So when my character comes into a specific birthright on a specific birthday and I come across a novel where nearly the same thing is happening to the character in that book, instead of getting upset I will understand that characters everywhere for years and years have had strange things happening on birthdays. The world is not out to get me.
Therefore I will embrace that fact that there probably are no truly original story lines out there anymore (notice smut novels featuring dinosaur partners as proof that everything under the sun has been done) and I will continue blindly plugging away because it makes me happy. And if someone says, “Hey, you’re book is like this other book I read.” I’ll decide to take it as a compliment and move on. I think Stephen Fry said it best. “An Original Idea. That can’t be too hard. The library must be full of them.”