Everything said here is definitely something I have felt at some point in my life. You start writing and then suddenly, this completely cool and unique idea feels so much less cool and unique. It gets easier and easier to draw a comparison between your idea and something you recently read or watched. This is one more way self-doubt can slip into your writing.
Self-doubt is something most writers deal with. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been writing or how many books you’ve published, it still crops up for some writers no matter what. With that said, we’re going to talk a bit about how to manage those feelings and prevent them from getting in the way of your writing.
There’s no such thing as original.
I want to get this out of the way. While one book might have completely blown you away with its striking “originality,” it probably way less original than you think. I’m not being mean. Some ideas will still feel fresher than others, but still, everything’s been done before a hundred times over. Even if that’s not completely true, believing it quelled self-doubt and helped me get back to work. I felt a weight being lifted off me when I felt as though I could write what I wanted to write instead of trying to write something that’s never been done before.
I’m a big believer in Ezra Pound’s famed saying, “Make it new.” Every new work comes out of the writer’s compiled inspirations and influences. The more you open yourself up to new influences the more you have at your disposal to draw from. This is where reading comes in.
Most writers are good readers, but the way I dug my way out of this problem was through reading. When I felt like all my ideas were too heavily inspired by something I just watched or read, my solution was to just keep reading. If anything, reading helped me understand how many ways an old idea could feel new. I learned that The Lion King is a retelling of Hamlet. And The Hunger Games is so inspired by the myth of Theseus and the Labyrinth. And you can draw endless comparisons between any story with a “Chosen One” whether it’s Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter. Twilight was original, but not any more so than Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all of the books by Anne Rice.
Also, can I just say, original is overrated. Today, I’ve got to go to the bookstore and buy a book for my little brother. He doesn’t know what he wants, he just knows what he likes, which right now is young adult fiction about virtual reality. If there were only the two or three out there that he’s already read, I have no idea what I’d buy, but because it’s so trendy, I’ve got plenty of choices to pick from. Sure, these aren’t the books that “started the trend” but they’re the books I’m buying right now. Cool books are cool books.