Words by Lafan Hasan
There’s one thing that has stayed consistent about people throughout all of time and that is our ability to continuously change. That being said, these changes aren’t necessarily things that we’re always conscious of doing. These changes come in all forms, from changes that make us improve ourselves to those that worsen us but what all change has in common is the ability to make us different from one another and different from the previous day. In society you find this tendency or this obsession with trying to be different, to be unique or to be original, to stand out while fitting in. With the way the world is developing today a lot of people are questioning whether originality itself has become extinct. Is it another asset that we are pushing away from ourselves?
The question at hand is how we can be original in our world today. I think to understand that in itself we have to set the record straight for what we consider originality to be in the first place. Many people would say that it’s something that’s out of the box, others would say that it’s something that has never been done before and some might say it’s anything but the mainstream. Allow me to propose this, everything in our world is influenced by something else, so it can’t be that originality is something that is independent of anything that is already existent. I think the most productive and accurate way to talk about originality is to say that it is the ability to synthesize new ideas from existing ones.
To truly accept that is the first step to being original in today’s world. It’s crucial for us to know how people that we deem original found a way to turn the things that influence them, into something new and into something that was out of the box. Take for example the person that made the hoover. That person must’ve been cleaning up messes their whole life with a broom and a dustpan, but with the influence of the broom’s purpose and his influence of wanting a process to be more efficient, the hoover was born. Take for example modern-day pop songs. Coldplay’s Paradise to Demi Lovato’s Skyscraper to Maroon 5’s She Will Be Loved, the thing that all these songs have in common is the chord progression that makes up the rhythm. Regardless of this one similarity or this one influence, you start to find diversification or if I may say the originification of the songs through multiple aspects such as the lyrics, instrumentation and vocal quality. The golden rule is to learn from your influences and expand on the similarities that exist between you and them.
The second and final step to being original is recognizing that restrictions, limitation and barriers that you encounter are conceptual and fluid. How many times have you wanted to create something but found yourself making sure you stick to a certain criterion? Whether that is one that has been imposed on you or even one that you have imposed on yourself through constant comparisons with others or through expectations from society that you feel pressured by. I think that the feeling of being restrained in the process of creating can hinder originality in many ways. In no way am I saying criteria are a bad thing, but when they stop being used as guidelines and start being used as limitations, it stops people from experimenting beyond them. If they were thought of as guidelines, then they would solely be used as guidance to one’s creative process rather than a restriction. Like criteria, I don’t think comparisons are that much of a bad thing either. It becomes problematic when comparison distracts you from the relativity of originality. To some extent, it’s easy to get into the habit of being original by starting to be original relative to the other creative things that you’ve done in life. For example, if you’re someone who likes writing poetry and you write a certain type of poem every time but decide to challenge yourself and try something different, relative to yourself it’s original. The interesting thing about originality that fascinates me the most is how much we emphasize how difficult it is to be original. On the contrary, I think that it takes time but it’s not that difficult and getting over that fear can make it feel easier. It starts with the small relative things and can grow to something that is heavily impactful and original to others as well but it’s about that constant drive to step out of the box and try something new.
To answer the question in short, to be original in today’s world is to keep faith in the ever-original way human beings are. The way to do that is by recognizing your influences, by dissolving your limitations and by asking yourself what you’ve done different this time around. In a really ironic way, be the same but a little different.