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When coming up with new ideas as a writer or creator of any kind, it can be a worry as to whether the brilliant idea in your head is original enough.

This sticking point can become paralysing, particularly for a new writer just starting out. It has caused many to procrastinate, hesitate, and unfortunately sometimes give up on creating something they feel is just not original enough.

But recently whilst studying Shakespeare, of all things, I came upon an interesting fact about the idea of writing in Elizabethan England, which turned this idea of originality on its head.

It is probably well known that William Shakespeare often ‘borrowed’ ideas and stories from all over the place. He didn’t invent the story of Antony and Cleopatra’s disastrous union, for example, but used the historical records created by others in order to write one of his most famous stage plays. In fact, much of his work – which has undoubtedly made him the most well-known playwright of all time – used ‘borrowed’ stories from historical papers, myths and legends.

And apparently, this was something the Elizabethan’s admired: the act of re-using familiar material in order to create art, which they referred to as ‘lively turning’. School pupils were even taught to take an ancient myth, for example, and give it new life. The art, they believed, lie in the embellishment.

This was how Shakespeare got away with using historical texts to base his historical tragedies on.

In her fantastic book about being a writer and artist, Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert refers to the idea of originality and how it leads to procrastination, claiming that there are really no completely original ideas left. That it is simply what a writer or artist does with an idea to make it their own that matters.

When you think about this idea, you can take break down many of your favourite books, films and TV series, and see how the crux of the story has been worked before. It is simply the situation or characters which make it feel original.

This can be seen in many detective novels. Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, for example, didn’t event the who-dun-it, murder conundrum storyline. But their clever writing develops that idea and the original characters they invent make the story work.

On a different level, this can even be seen on platforms such as YouTube or in the blogging world, where ideas are often elevated to trending status because more people are talking about the same ideas and topics. The YouTube algorithm means that creators need to keep up with current trends in order to get more views.

All this to say: if you are feeling paralysed by worry that your writing ideas are not original enough, or that somebody else has used them before, take heart: if it was good enough for Shakespeare, it’s probably good enough for you!

Happy creating : )

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