We’re All Basically Writing the Same Things at the Same Time

What does “being unique” mean, anyway?

“I can’t keep writing this story, it’s not original enough.”

Have you ever had this thought? The good news is, I think we all have, at some point or another. But one major difference between writers who “make it” and those who don’t is that writers bound for success keep writing, and those destined not to reach their goals just stop.

Is there even such a thing as a completely original story anyway?

Don’t they say that all stories technically originate from the same eight (maybe more, maybe less) tales?

If no story you’re telling is as original as you’d like it to be — even if you work in online publishing and every article you write seems like a not-so-distant copy of another publication’s idea (which they probably got from someone else) — what makes anyone’s work unique?

Think of the story of Cinderella. How many different times and ways has that tale been retold over time? It’s the same story with the same exact origins. But it’s different — enough so that audiences return to it, not just because it’s familiar, but because it offers something new that a previous telling didn’t provide.

What makes a story unique isn’t the story itself, but the voice through which it is told. No two people have the exact same perspective on any issue. No two people can create the same characters with the same depth.

Good stories come from somewhere deep inside you — a place only you can reach. If you tell a story from that place, it’s original enough.

If you spend the rest of your life worrying that every story you start telling isn’t “original” enough, you’re never going to get any writing done. You’re smarter than you give yourself credit for. You know the original story. The way to make it “yours” will come to you as you write, not as you sit around worrying that people will accuse you of somehow copying someone else.

We’re all copying each other. That’s what happens when hundreds of thousands of people are all trying to work on their own projects at the same time.

There is a unique element in every good, successful story that makes it stand out. No one else can tell you what that element will be in your own story. You have to figure it out on your own — and the only way to do that is to start writing. Go on the adventure. See where it takes you.

If I worried so deeply about every idea that found its way to me, I’d literally worry myself to death. Too many writers waste way too much of their valuable writing time worrying about what other people are doing! Focus on your project. That’s how you’ll figure out how to make it a true winner.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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12 thoughts on “We’re All Basically Writing the Same Things at the Same Time

    1. Thanks for letting me know you’re getting something valuable out of these posts! It means a lot. Also, GOOD LUCK!! Let me know how it goes. :)

      1. While I haven’t written very much, I’ve figured out a major plot point, so I’d say that I’ve a had a great couple of writing days. :-) I hope you have a wonderful day.

  1. I’ve wondered this over and over, but the voice aspect is so helpful and true!

    1. Whenever I start to doubt myself, I just think, “No one else writes like me. In a very small way that makes this unique.” Remember that!

  2. Funny you should mention Cinderella – in my Unhappily Ever After, Cinders is now, fat, common and desperate to get a divorce from King Charming. Sleeping Beauty is making up for lost time with 28 children and the only lady, Snow White refuses to go with King Harold where every woman has gone before. Yes, there are variations on a theme. :)

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