Don’t Get Hung Up on Originality

originalityI know a lot of folks who are, shall we say, “attempted bloggers.” They have a blog. It exists. They’ve even made a few posts. But they haven’t updated it in forever – sometimes years. They tell me that they plan to get to it. Eventually. Yet they never do.

Almost all of these friends are hung up on “originality.” It’s not the only thing holding them back, but it’s a big one. And it’s common among writers of all kinds. “I want to say something original.” Fair enough – we all want to say something original. But originality is hard. It’s also overrated.

Most people honestly can’t process truly original thoughts. To the average person, when you say something original they just hear crazy talk. That’s because truly original ideas don’t yet have enough conceptual framework to introduce them to the masses. A truly original idea often requires a large body of supporting knowledge that the masses simply don’t have. Even educated people – even highly educated people – often don’t have the specialized domain knowledge necessary to process something truly unique.

That’s ok – you probably don’t have very many truly original ideas, anyway. Don’t beat yourself up for it. Neither does anybody else, really – or at least, very few people.

Those famous bloggers you read – the ones whose blogs are overflowing with great new ideas? They didn’t come up with those ideas on their own, either. Well, mostly. I know a couple of bloggers who have come up with some truly original ideas. Which is great. Until you realize that those same bloggers have written 14,000+ blog posts. How many of those were truly original ideas? Maybe a dozen.

And that leads to the key insight that I want to share with you today. Your audience doesn’t know everything that you know. Not by a long shot. I fight with this constantly. I’ve read thousands of books in my life. I’ve seen hundreds of movies, and thousands of hours of television shows. I’ve read tens of thousands of online articles, blog posts, reviews, stories and more. Possibly well over a hundred thousand. On all kinds of topics – fiction, non-fiction, politics, religion, philosophy, psychology, sociology, math, science, programming, language, history, and more. I have both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, and they’re not in the same field.

I’m not saying any of that to show off. I will have readers who have been exposed to more raw knowledge than I have. I probably already do have readers like that. The point isn’t the quantity of knowledge I’ve accumulated. The point is that there’s nobody else out there – nobody – who has read the exact same combination of books that I have. Nobody else has seen the same combination of movies. Nobody else has the same background knowledge.

And that’s true for you, too. You know many things that your readers don’t. Don’t be afraid to share that knowledge. It might be obvious to you. It might even be obvious to some of your readers. But it’s not obvious to everybody.

I have the opposite problem of what I’ve describe above. Whereas my friends don’t feel they have anything to talk about, I have plenty. But I also have a strong tendency to forget just how much background knowledge my readers don’t have. I’m aware of this, and I tend to write with this fact in mind. But I don’t always succeed. Even when I focus on it, I often leave out important details.

Either way, it’s very valuable to keep in mind just what it is that you know that many others don’t. Share that knowledge. Sure, you might not write it as elegantly as your favorite big name blogger. But as crazy as this may sound, not everybody reads that famous blogger’s work. And one or two of the folks who don’t might just stop by your blog someday.

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