Home » Reality Check #2: You Aren’t Original

Reality Check #2: You Aren’t Original

Just FYI, the woman who brought hand cream on a plane is in custody tonight, so you can rest easy tonight. Come on! Ladies, quit jerking around and just give up the lotion already!

Okay. Sorry. That’s done. Originally, this began in my hard drive as a post on creativity, how to be creative and cultivate it and all that. But honestly, I’m not so sure that’s quite The Full M-to-the-onty on what’s really stacked against you in your publishing program, if you get my message.

Now this isn’t an idea that will sell you a lot of books. And it’s not going to make you all warm and fuzzy inside, either. But the fact of it is, creativity is largely irrelevant because, I’ve got to tell you, YOU ARE NOT ORIGINAL. I’ve been noodling about this recently, and I think one of the reasons truly inspiring people are published is that many of them have given up this idea that they’re so creative and unique. Certainly, there are examples of authors who are confoundingly obsessed with being creative and unique (like those who print their proposals on purple paper…I mean, who doesn’t recognize that pure genius?). But most big CBA names aren’t published because they’re so original.

I mean, they’re just not. You think Kincade is unique? How about Jenkins and LaHaye? Or maybe Frank Peretti. Ted Dekker? T.D. Jakes? Joyce Meyer? Phil Vischer? Michael W. Smith? Mr. Jell-O-steen himself? Sure, they’re great. But they’re not original. Was Jesus original? Even he was a few years behind those earlier messiahs. No, the sage was right: there is nothing new under the sun. Okay, I’ll give you Rush Limbaugh. There will never be anyone as creative and unique as Rush. But that goes without saying. And he’s it. Okay, and maybe Jakes. And Dino. But that’s it!

Christian writers, get past this idea of being different and original. I mean, be special, but not because you’re so creative or original, or whatever. Are you smarter, funnier, better-looking, more deserving than others? If any of that was the criteria, we’d all be up stinky creek. None of us measure up. Not only would we have to be constantly changing our identities to stay up with the times, we’d have to rely on the hope that no one prettier, smarter, or funnier came along. And someone always would because the world is bigger than Colorado Springs, at least according to Mapquest. Some people do base their worth on a false sense of specialness, sadly, seemingly unaware that the secret to being special is not any of these superficial things. It’s…well, it turns out Rick Warren was right! It’s purpose that matters. It’s not what you do or even so much how you do it. It’s what comes out of your God-given passion that matters. The piece of him he gave you to share. The sharing of Him who gave you that peace.

You’re a conduit. Yes. That is all. That is enough. The device for transmitting the divine. So forget the false confidence and hyping yourself up to believe something you’re not. Charisma sells, yes. But that charisma needs to derive from your core passion, whatever that is. And don’t accept any less—from anyone. If you really want to change the world, start there.

Alright? So I’m thinking this should apply to the way we view the world, this broken, twisted-up, decaying piece of rock hurtling through space. We need more Christians who understand this, their specialness that’s not about uniqueness. Use your piece of the eternal to affect the present. And when you write, think about the effect you’ll have on generations in the future of your dedicating not to what’s unique, but what’s everlasting.

21 Responses to “Reality Check #2: You Aren’t Original”

  1. Margo says:

    That’s wisdom. That’s a huge relief!
    But, hey, there still be only one Jaaack Sparrow! (Good thing, my heart!)

  2. Karen says:

    We were out of the country when the liquids ban began. I thought we’d covered all the dos and don’ts but I lost my contact lens solution to a security guard in Cayman who said she hadn’t got the message. I did give up my hand cream.
    Thanks for taking the pressure off of being original and putting it on to pursuing the purpose.

  3. “Are you smarter, funnier, better-looking, more deserving than others?”
    Yes. Does this mean I win?
    (Great post, Mick. I’m off now to polish my purpose. See you at Stinky Creek.)

  4. So Colorado Springs isn’t at the center of the earth?
    Here’s a place to go trolling for the real center (of the earth – not trying to get philosophical or anything).

  5. Camy Tang says:

    What??? I’m not original???

  6. Claudia Mair says:

    I’m not going to get past the idea that I’m original because I am. You won’t find another Claudia Mair Burney anywhere in this world, and even if you do she won’t be me. She won’t have my fingerprints,DNA, hairline or smell, or the scar on my ankle from when I got tangled up in a bicycle chain when I was four. I’m fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Nobody writes like me, even if people do say I remind them of Anne Lamott. If you read my work and Annie’s you’d know pretty soon that we both may be funny and poignant, but I’m the black woman, married to Ken, with the seven kids and the bad brain chemistry that almost kills me every winter.
    I bring all of the books I’ve read, all of the life I’ve lived, and an immeasurable number of other things that make me one-of-a kind to the party we call Christian fiction. Got my own mind, my own voice, and a kaleidescope of hopes, fears, good loves and vices that I bring to the page.
    I may not be the prettiest, or the smartest, or the funniest, but I’m the claudia mair burneyest. There may be nothing new under the sun, but originals still dot the landscape, baby: Flannery O’Connor. Maya Angelou, C.S.Lewis, J. California Cooper. I’d know their voices anywhere, and those are just writers.
    Jesus is original. He may not have been the first messiah, but He made God incarnate more than mythology and is truly God with us. I find Him more compelling (and controversial) than Rush, for hanging out with whores and sinners alone, but He did a lot more that makes Him the One every knee is going to bow to.
    I’m not creative? Dude, I make up stories and get paid for it! I’m the bomb–though I wouldn’t say that at the airport. God just gave me a high five, because He thinks I’m so much fun. He likes stories and the people, like Himself, who CREATE them. And I still have a purpose, and did before Rick Warren told me so.
    I guess we’ll agree to disagree. I KNOW my big, fat, freak flag flies high and handsome. ‘Cause I got it like that by the grace of God.
    Jesus has it like that, too.

  7. Well, people are always telling me, “Thank God, there’s only one of you in the world!” Not original? I’ll have to tell those people to beware!
    If we’re talking story ideas, well…you can only get people in trouble so many ways. It’s the way you do it that makes your story special. Can you tell I write suspense?

  8. Katy McKenna says:

    Well. Hot Dang if Claudia Mair Burney doesn’t make a fine case for every one of us being an original. I know that, yes, there are only so many plots

  9. Katy McKenna says:

    Wow! My very originally-behaving finger hit the post button in mid-thought! Sorry. As I was writing: Only so many basic plots, but a nearly infinite number of ways to tell those stories.
    However, I have found that I can get writer’s paralysis if I try too hard to be original. And being blocked? That’s DEFINITELY been done to death.

  10. Mick says:

    My goodness. Had I known what originals I was speaking to, I’d have changed my position…
    Actually, on second thought. Nope. Sorry. God is the original. You are a collection of his particular expressions.
    Now go honor your responsibility and write your purpose!

  11. shanna says:

    Oh man…this whole topic is so very last week.

  12. rachelle says:

    If nobody out there is “original” then you have no job. If you were not looking for fresh voices, novelists who put words together in special ways, pastors with a unique way of helping us understand the gospel message — and if you did not have a finely tuned ability to recognize such things — then anyone could have your job at the ol’ salt mine. Believe me, as a fellow editor I understand what you are trying to say here — and your line about “not what’s unique, but what’s everlasting” is poetic and profound. BUT the generality doesn’t hold up when applied to individuals. You can say, in a global way, “nobody is original” and mean that we are all human beings and God’s children. But you cannot say truthfully, “you, dear writer, are NOT original” because in fact, as individuals we are all original.
    As editors we see only a VERY few writers who are able to compellingly EXPRESS their originality on the page. We see many who simply don’t seem to carry many “original” thoughts in their heads — they’re mostly reactionary or derivative. And we see many who don’t have an interesting flair when it comes to expressing themselves in writing. Those are the ones who frustrate us and make us say things like “You are not original.”
    But some authors DO have the knack for expressing their originality — whether in thought, or turn of phrase, or simply the “charisma” that you’ve spoken of. And those are the ones we compete for, and when we read them we feel once again that life is worth living, and when we “discover” them it becomes a source of joy that never dissipates. As a lover of books and those who write them, I celebrate originality every time I finish reading a wonderful story, and when I read something that is unoriginal, thoughtless, or boring, I throw it across the room. NOT because nobody is original but because I have so much love and respect for those who are, and who can express it compellingly.

  13. Yes, we can try so hard to be original, we miss the comfort of the predictable. Every snowflake may be different, but it’s still a snowflake. Even God doesn’t come up with a new form of precipitation every time he waters the earth. We celebrate and incorporate the unique, but we can block ourselves, trying too hard to be original.

  14. James says:

    Has any body seen Lady in the Water? Talk about original.

  15. One thing you said is HUGE – being a conduit is “good enough.” We are conduits, bridges, translaters, guides – how can we not be? The Spirit who is all these things lives inside us! Thanks for reminding us to keep the main thing the main thing my friend. And personally, I think it is much more than just “good enough”!

  16. I’d love to be considered a friend, and perhaps another original. : ) I’d also love to share a resource. I’m the founder of a group of CBA writers. There are two groups of 1,000 writers total. Not chatty. Very professional.
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TWV2 and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TheWritersView
    Hope these are helpful resources for you.
    Suzanne Eller

  17. siouxsiepoet says:

    hi mick. you snuck this one out on me.
    hey, you’re probably right. but you know the bummer about being original or unique or slightly off? there is no niche, no place for you in the market. then you get to keep your vastly original ideas to your sweet little self because you won’t be marketable until your work leaks out and becomes the latest thing.
    but i don’t believe originality is as elusive as all that.
    i shall have to think on this.
    i’m fried.

  18. sharks, agents, and other carnivores

    God knows i love mick silva. but he blasted originality and i just don’t buy it. though i think he’s swell, i just don’t think we serve a cookie cutter God who only has cookie cutter conduits as servants. (in

    In the broad sense discussed above, e.g. inventing a new genre, almost no one is original. But, since each of us is a unique individual, each of us is original in that sense.
    Also, there are always new instances of long established concepts. Just yesterday I witnessed a new example of the “Physician, Heal Thyself” category. I met a photographer who had a very poor photo of himself on his website!!

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