The Freedom of Unoriginality

I’ve written about 2,000 words so far this year.  Considering that’s about how much I wrote all of 2018, I’d call that progress.  Most of those words are for those days when I actually posted something to the blog.  I’m still feeling quite stymied as far as creative fiction goes.

James Patterson once remarked that truly original ideas are rare.  I do believe there are untapped stories out there and genres we haven’t thought of yet, but I also believe we sometimes put too much pressure to be extremely original (and thus marketable).  I see a lot of science fiction writers so caught up with reinventing the alien that they forgot it’s just as important putting their own spin on it.  After all, you are the only thing that’s really unique; your tastes, your interests, your way of seeing the world.

Take The Terminator, for instance.  Boil it down to its essence: a relentless machine from the future traveling back in time to kill someone.  It’s on a mission to kill John Conner in the 80s, right?  What if it travels to the Old West?  There’s a train en route to Tombstone, Arizona carrying cargo that has major historical implications.  What if the Terminator repeatedly travels back in time to the same moment?  It’s fighting our heroic gunslinger on top of the train, gets shot in the chest, and falls off to be crushed by the locomotive.  SkyNet opens a time portal and another Terminator enters the battle like a player respawning in a video game.

That’s an interesting idea.  It’s not a full story, but it’s the kernel of a story.  Time-traveling robots are the only connective tissue.

I’ve overthought this fear of being unoriginal to the point where it’s become a big brick in my creative blockage.  Being self-critical is useful when you’re editing, but not when you’re creating.  When you’re in that creation mode, you’re only job is getting out the idea.  Regardless of whether or not the idea is good, you’re just mining for clay.  Sculpting it comes later.

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