The quest for innovation

innovationAt one point or another every creative person must feel that everything has been done before. Everything worth writing, worth painting, worth saying. That the essential is there, for everyone to understand, that we can’t possibly capture the essence of life without being copies of someone else.

This is a universal urge, in a way. We feel that we need to step outside certain boundaries, that we have to forget about the rules in order to innovate. We want to be original, to create something new. We want to create a big enough change in the world that’s going to last forever.

And it’s so because we want to be different. Which is okay. But it shouldn’t be a goal.

You want to set up a blog, and you ask yourself, “What makes me so different that people would like to read my stuff? Maybe everything I write has already been written by others. Then, what’s the purpose? Why waste precious time and energy doing what has already been done?”

I’ve spent more time thinking about original ideas, brilliant, one of a kind ideas for my stories than I’ve spent writing. At least in the first few years.

Then I realized that by doing this, you lose focus on what really matters. And it’s kind of stressful, actually. It’s like wanting to reach the destination, but you also want to skip the five hour long drive. You want the idea, but you don’t want to work for it.

This, in fact, is searching for a shortcut. If the idea is good enough, the way you present it won’t even matter. At least, that’s how most people think. Now, that’s really dangerous, because you lose sight of what’s important.

If you’re a writer, it’s important to write. And to read. And to write again. About anything, about everything, and every once in a while you should also have fun. The goal is to create something, anything, not something original. Or great. Or something that will sell.

By accident, and only by accident, you’ll create something original. But that shouldn’t be your goal.

It’s quite simple, and all you have to do, if you’re a writer, is to write something when you really don’t feel like it. All the way through you’ll feel as if everything you write will find its way to the Recycle Bin. Quite frankly, you can’t wait to use the delete button. Give it a day or two, then read what you wrote. A lot of crap, I’m sure. But there will also be something good there, even if only a few sentences that sound right.

Writing is not complicated or terrifying or anything. We just make it sound so, because we’re scared that it’s incredibly easy. You have to sit down and write. Your brain does the rest. Even when you’re tired, even when you don’t feel like it. Even when you’d much rather go fishing. Especially if you hate fishing.

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30 comments on “The quest for innovation

  1. Al says:

    And now you’ve hit it :-)

  2. In some ways, Nike is right. Just do it. Only, as Seth Godin points out, “Just” is a deceptive. The biggest part is starting and then starting again. Thanks for another (original) reminder.

  3. chaszak says:

    This is an excellent post, and reminded me of Jorge Luis Borges’ essay about the pressures that were put upon him, and others in his country, to be “Argentine writers,” which was often interpreted as meaning they had to put lots of Argentine color into their writings. Eventually, Borges saw the error of such an undertaking, and exhorted his fellow writers not to “be afraid; we must believe that the universe is our birthright and try out every subject; we cannot confine ourselves to what is Argentine in order to be Argentine because either it is our inevitable destiny to be Argentine, in which case we will be Argentine whatever we do, or being Argentine is a mere affectation, a mask.”

  4. simon7banks says:

    I’ve never been much worried by the argument that it’s all been done. People are infinitely variable and I am not precisely the same as anyone else, so my take on things will not be identical. Yes, for example, boy meets girl has been done, but no two individuals will be quite the same. Besides, culture changes. If you take the plot of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”, for example, the class consciousness would not be the same today, George Wickham’s dissolute conduct as a student would not have so surprised and offended Mark D’Arcy and Lucy Bennett would not be in danger of social disgrace for having made love with him – not in England among ethnic Brits, anyway. So someone taking the same basic plot would have to substitute other reasons for the tension between the main characters or shift the scene to, say, India or Bradford’s Pakistani community. It would then be a different book. A contemporary novel in which someone gets obsessed by living on the internet would have no precise precedent. Finally, language changes, and that’s a very important change for a poet or any imaginative writer.

  5. speedodoyle says:

    I like these thoughts, thanks for sharing x

  6. I agree that simple approach is always better than overly complicating things

  7. Spotless Mind ID says:

    “There’s nothing new under the sun.”
    When I post something on my blog, I don’t think about this and that. I just write everything although maybe my post already written by someone else. But, I know.. each person has different perspective so let’s just write and read and write and read and write like you said before :D

  8. omtatjuan says:

    Jackson Pollack was a tormented soul who did great paintings…

  9. fabiolacampanozzi says:

    I was thinking about something similar this evening. It was about innovation but more focused on the current rules of my work and their future. I don’t know if we, as individuals, can break rapidly the boundaries of what has been done until now in terms of innovation (it seems always that the last thinking flow and its models are the most efficient and nothing better can be done), but history is history. For sure, all the efforts to be “original” at all costs are destined to sink. I don’t think that Copernicus or Albert Einstein were thinking “Ok, let’s do something original to be remembered by the next human generations!”. But they did it. I think that innovation and originality could be discussed on different levels but in the end, if you have to make efforts to produce them, it’s time to change life aspirations. According to me, innovation comes from the inside and it’s just a natural attitude possessed by a little number of people. And a smaller one is able to put it into practice breaking those boundaries effectively. But it’s just a personal opinion. Nothing too serious.

  10. fabiolacampanozzi says:

    *ndr. with “you” I was intending “someone who”. not you-you. ;)

  11. Good point here but what if I wanna write a book? I have an epistolary semi-autobiographical novel in WIP (it ”sounds” like my blog). Why would anyone buy it? Thank you for your writing.

    • Success with a book depends on a variety of things: genre, originality, writing style, marketing. If you have a truly unusual, adventurous, disastrous, or comical life-story; chances are good it’s marketable. However, if you simply want to tell about walking the dog, brushing your teeth, laundry day, or any other mundane thing; then, no, your book will be a total flop.
      Certainly, there’s been a ton of semi-autobiographical books written. Each one is unique in the people involved and the circumstances written about. If you don’t think it will work on its own, put it as a scene in a fictional novel.
      Start writing it. Have a friend read it, and ask for her/his honest opinion. If there’s interest, go ahead and finish it.
      Nothing is accomplished without first trying.

  12. Indeed.Nice post. When you just do what feels right to you no matter how it’s received & even dropping the notion of what’s original vs what’s not then you are being true to yourself & for new writers you just keep on writing until one fine day you discover you’ve written a masterpiece & all the effort was worth it.

  13. Kas-a-fras says:

    Great post, reminds me of my favorite C.S.Lewis quote- “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.” Happy writing!

  14. The Borg says:

    I loved this post. I’m not new to blogging but my two current blogs are new. I simply get inspired and write my heart out and love my own work (am I up myself? Lol) and I view blogging as a pleasure and a pastime.
    However I have goals of writing a book, even starting with a small ebook to get the hang of it all and that’s when I start to wonder if there’s any niche left in the market.
    Basically though, I want to agree with you. Just write. It doesn’t matter what, just write.
    Great post :)

  15. Mandy Girvin says:

    Thank you for such an honest insight into writing, it was just what I needed to read.

  16. That was very inspiring. Thank you! I find, as a writer, that I hit “writer’s block” but this is generally when writing a song and I take my time to think about the content and structure. Other times, I free write philosophy because it’s always the active part in my mind to think openly. Thank you again for this article!

  17. That inner voice I was talking about, too…

  18. cozmicflight says:

    Well, i’ll qoute (badly) Umberto Eco on this one, In the name of the rose, someone is complaining that there are no great man anymore and someone replies, you’re right, there are no great man anymore, but as dwarfs we are, we can get in the back of those great man and see a little bit further in the horizon… that’s our quest!

  19. kinster255 says:

    Hi there! I agree with you. Though I do, whole-heartedly admit that I have horrible grammar and spelling yet I still continue to write. Maybe it’s because I hope to improve it with writing or maybe… writing is an escape. I honestly enjoy writing because it where I can let my thoughts flow. I sit down on a chair with a paper and pen in front of me, though I most prefer a laptop, and I just let my fingers do the work. Most times when I type on the keyboard, you would hear nothing but the keyboard sounds, it’s like my fingers do the work. There was actually a time where in I just sat down in front of my laptop, and the next thing I knew my fingers started typing. I didn’t even think or had any idea what I planned to do!

    Oh! And if you have the time, check out my blog:

  20. beearielle says:

    Love. Love. Love This. similar to what I wrote in my last post ” the appeal of the starving artist” we as people have become so fixated on creating the best ideas to turn profit or beat someone else’s “best idea” when in fact that IS more stressful. That is forced creativity/innovation and the fact of the matter is forced creativity or innovation is not authentic. It should just flow… Let it flow everyone. GREAT POST !

  21. jjwalters says:

    Writers draw from the same pool of thought. They re-arrange a given number of words to express themselves on subjects that have been touched upon thousands of times before . . . and yet each thought is unique, each original writing a little different from all others. Such is the way in a creation where the whole is truly greater than the sum of all its parts. . . . my only rule is be authentic and to remember that writing is a language that MUST be understood by the reader if you wish to have one . .

  22. Micah says:

    Wonderfully written! It very much reminded me of a Chuck Close quote, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightening to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.” I try to keep this in mind on those days when I feel like I’m beating my head against the wall for ideas/inspiration.

  23. Topaz says:

    I usually write when I have a tiny spark of an idea. When I sit down in front of the computer, the idea takes over and flows through my fingertips.

    I’m not able to force myself to write when I don’t want to. That’s why it’s important to blog about specific topics that are of great interest to the writer. For me, that’s the key.

  24. Never write if the fish are biting. Never. :)

  25. I loved this…to hear heart of another…expressed with such eloquence! Keep going friend, keep going

  26. Lizi says:

    Great post. When I feel frustrated that I may never have any original ideas, I write anyway. Genius favors the productive.

  27. simple, el mensaje es escribir,

  28. Loved your thoughts.
    Is not all writing original? Considering there are only 19 plots (or so I’ve heard), what can you say that is different? Dynamic and entertaining characters, a few odd or unexpected twists, and a good/unique subplot, all make for a great story.
    My first book has great characters, a typical plot but with a few little twists that made it unique. My second is much better. I hope the readers will think so, too. I’m finishing up the editing, and should have it done in 2 weeks. (Here I am blogging instead)
    I did not want to blog at first. I thought it would take away too much time from writing. Instead, I have found I love it. I meet such wonderful people and learn so much on a wide-ranging variety of subjects. The blogs I write help me hone my writing skills. I have 2 dozen folders on blog topics, so there’s never any lack for topics, especially since more are added daily. When I first started I felt like I was talking to myself–I forgot to use those little tags!
    I love writing (and reading). It can take you away from your worries, cares and pain. My best writing is when I’m in the mood; but when I’m working on a novel, I occasionally have to make myself write. When I’m more in the mood and read it later, if I decide I don’t like it, I change it. Nothing is carved in stone at this point. Well, except the blogs. There have been a few times I’ve hit the ‘post’ button and regretted it.

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