Is It Possible To Be Original?

 I don't like speaking in clichés. I don't like saying something only to realize immediately afterwards that it was something I heard someone else say at some earlier point.

I want to be original. I don't think I want to be so original that I would be considered a hipster, but I want to be free of the constraints of the ideas and phrasings of other people.

I've found myself expressing an opinion which I thought was original, then I remember exactly where I heard it and who shared it first. It makes me feel like I'm just a copycat.

It makes sense that people would mostly speak in ways they've heard other people speak before. That is how people learn language. They listen to other people and begin to pick up on and borrow the ways other people speak. It is only natural that those phrasings and ideas would meld into your own way of speaking.

It is convenient to use common idioms and turns of phrase because they can be shorthand for larger thoughts and they are easily understood by others. Using unoriginal speech can be efficient because it can lead to more effective communication.

But if you want to say something truly original and unique, something that has never been said before, could you really do it? The things we hear get lodged deep in our subconscious memory and can surface in our thoughts without us even realizing it.

So if we articulate a thought we believe to be totally original, it is possible it is borrowed, but we just don't realize it.

And if we were to create a thought that was completely original, composed of nothing that we had ever heard before, would that thing even have any value? What good is an idea that would exist isolated from every other idea ever had? Useful ideas tend to be those that combine parts of differing subjects to find a novel combination or those which push at the established boundaries of some domain.

A new idea would be like art or poetry, really only having value because of its own existence, and not because of its usefulness.

And a brand new idea expressed in such a way to avoid all common arrangements of words might be so difficult to communicate to others that it would become moot and pointless.

I think it is actually extremely difficult, if at all possible, to be completely original. To have an original idea or use original language. Every common phrase had to have had a first use and an inventor, so it is possible that you could also invent some phrase that would catch on.

Every idea which is borrowed and unoriginal by someone must have come from some original source. For that first person the idea was original. But even those ideas are mostly composed of other existing ideas.

So while logic could have you believe that being original, being the first to have some idea or use some phrase, is possible, it seems like in a practical way it is actually so difficult as to be almost impossible.

But I don't think that is really much of a problem.

You can still be very creative using some borrowed ideas. You can be very intelligent and apply your knowledge and at the same time make use of borrowed ideas. You can be very useful to the world, making important change and progress which will help people, while using borrowed ideas.

Borrowing ideas is just the way of the world. The only way it is or can be. But originality for its own sake seems like a poor goal anyways. You want to make things better in the world, and using existing ideas as tools will help you to accomplish that.

What is your favorite story of originality? Have you ever come up with something truly original? Do you think originality is as difficult as I've made it out to be? Should greater emphasis be placed on trying to be original? Let me know in the comments!

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