The Only Way to Be Original — Just Be You

by Lisa Rothstein on 03/14/2013

The perfectionism we creative types struggle with isn’t only about wanting our stuff to be the best (because otherwise it isn’t good enough.)

It’s also about thinking, if we’re not the best, we have no business creating it at all. And following from that is the idea of competition. We can’t handle it. If  we’re not the only ones, totally original, we think the whole enterprise is off-limits. It’s their territory, and we don’t want to be accused of being copycats. Especially if they are well known for doing it well, we think it’s no use our even trying.

“What’s the point?” we mutter. “It’s already been done.”

And yet, there is more than one cookbook in the world. When Julia Child wrote hers, even though it is still considered the Bible of cuisine, others still had to temerity to create their own. And not only is there more than one cookbook, there is more than one French cookbook. There is even more than one French pastry cookbook. And some folks buy them all.

When the sonata-allegro form –the basis of the symphony –was first developed in the 17th century, and made widespread in symphonies by the likes of Haydn and Mozart in the 18th, did Beethoven come along a little later and say, “Fuggedabout it. This has been done to death”? Nope. He did his own. Nine of ’em.

So what’s the point? Nothing in and of itself is new…but once you get involved, suddenly it is. That’s why there really is no competition. Because that creative pursuit or business idea you want to do, done by YOU, is a whole new enchilada. Your version is going to be the perfect fit for some people, who will prefer it to anything else. And even fans of your “competition” may want some of what you’ve got too.

That creative thing or passion + YOU = something totally original

As my own mentor said, when I was whining that I couldn’t do something in my business because some other writer/coach was already doing it and I thought she “owned” that space, “Lisa, you don’t have to invent ice cream. You just have to have your own flavor.”

Huh. What a concept.

And as my friend and fellow coach the über-creative and delightful Samantha Bennett of The Organized Artists’ Company always says, “It’s all been said before. But not by you.”

And one more quote, by Henry Van Dyke, that I will admit I got from a needlepoint I saw in a friends’ mother’s powder-pink bathroom, “Use what talents you possess; The woods would be very silent if no birds sang but the ones who sang best.” (Bad rhyme, good thought.)

So get out there and do that thing you long to do your way. You are not a copycat or derivative. You couldn’t be if you tried.

Activity: Is there an idea or creative project you’ve held back on because you fear it’s “been done” already? More than one? Choose the one that calls to you the most and give yourself permission to give it a try your way. Imagine that the finished product will have a character all its own, and remember that your “flavor” will be someone’s favorite.


Give this activity a try and let us know what you think in the comments section below.


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