Are We Original?

hollybarbo author, human brain, the creative process 1 Comment

Many years ago I submitted a design to Danbury Mint for a Christmas ornament. The man in charge of the submissions department was a patient and professional voice on the other end of the phone. Over the weeks we spoke several times as my design made its way beyond several levels of cuts. One of the things he said has stuck with me. “Holly, there really is nothing new or original under the sun.”

Such a simple statement. Not necessarily profound but it has stuck with me because we were speaking artistically and it seemed to be a very non creative type of comment.

As an artist and a writer I have always tried to be original. But here was a man who dealt with artists daily and he spoke of patterns, concepts and formulas being repeated down through history. Rinse and repeat. He wasn’t saying to copy, steal or plagiarize but he was recognizing the unconscious tendency to use formulas. To look at what works or what we like and adopt it into our style. It is a lesson both humbling and helpful.

What he expressed was accurate in a sense. If we reduce our stories to the bare bones of structure most will fall into a plot pattern. I don’t write with a formula in mind though there is probably one at its roots.

Where his statement stops working, in my mind, is in the truly creative innovations in science and technology.. and in really interestingly plot twists. As a reader and a consumer both delight me. That is what I strive for.

I work hard to create something fresh. I simply don’t like the prepackaged. My creative spirit has never liked following patterns. My sewing machine and I had an adversarial relationship because repeatedly I wanted it to do things my way…not necessarily using the approved method for sewing. The machine and I parted ways when my son grew out of Trick-or-Treating. Both of us are happier for it ..though I must say the costumes were very special.  😀

Oh, my design for the Christmas Ornament? It made it as far as the second-to-the-last cut of fifteen out of the collection of twelve but I proudly hang the prototype on my tree every year. It was a lovely learning experience.

Comments 1

  1. Sheenah Freitas

    That’s pretty impressive that you made it that far! But a lot people say that there isn’t anything original. I’m not sure if that’s correct; there always seems to be innovative ideas tumbling around somewhere. But in regards to the arts there does seem to be a lot of basic formulas. We, as the artist, have to take those basic formulas and make them unique. At their core, there are a lot of books with the theme of good vs. evil, but at the same time, they’re all so vastly different from one another.

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