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The Journey of Ideas

by Julie, enjoying the fall colors though today’s wind gusts are whirring them around

Yesterday I read an article about one author who was concerned with the alarming similarities between her book and another author’s work. They both wrote historical fiction about packhorse librarians, and there do seem to be similarities. But rather than one author plagiarizing the other, could there be another reason for the similarities?

This fall I reread Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. The subtitle of the book is “creative living beyond fear”. More on that in a bit.

In Big Magic, she tells a story about a novel she was working on. It was a big novel about the Amazon jungle. She was working on the idea, and then life got in the way. When she got back to the novel her inspiration was gone, so she set it aside for the time being. A while later, she was having lunch Ann Patchett. They were talking about their works in progress, and Liz started, telling Ann about the Amazon book, confessing that it was stuck. In her tell, Liz Gilbert says that Ann looked a bit pale, and then proceeded to tell Liz about her work in progress. Which took place in the Amazon jungle. There were many other similarities between the two books.

Liz Gilbert believes that when she didn’t write the book her idea moved on to another writer who was ready for the inspiration. That the muse traveled rather than letting the idea die. By that way of thinking, the muse can give several people the same idea, safe in the knowledge that they will all use it different ways.

Now, I do not condone plagiarizing, or stealing ideas. But here’s what I know. The Wickeds could all take the same idea, even a fairly complex one, and we would write very different novels. That’s the nature of creativity. The same idea gets different treatment depending on who is doing the work. This is true for all sorts of creative expression.

And so, my dear aspiring creatives, never worry that someone else has “already done” your idea. Worry instead that if you don’t act on the idea that sparked your creativity it will travel to someone else and inspiration will leave you.

Dear readers, don’t worry about reading “another xyz” book. Like, say, a gardening cozy. You never know what the different take on the same idea will bring, and how you might enjoy the story.

“Creative living beyond fear” is the subtitle of Big Magic. Fear is a powerful motivator for all of us, isn’t it? Fear is designed to protect us. But when we choose to be creative, whatever that journey, that requires fear be thanked for taking care of us, and then moved out of the way. When we embrace an idea and choose to act on it in a positive way, that’s a brave thing. Brave doesn’t mean without fear. Brave means doing it despite the fear.

Creativity takes many forms. We’re all writers, but we also have other creative pursuits. I knit, bake, I paint terribly. All of these creative pursuits help me as a writer. They help me with my process. They also make my life more fun.

I love thinking about, talking about, coaching on creativity. We all have creative energy waiting to be expressed. Don’t let “it’s already been done” stop you. For those of you interested, I’m doing a free, online masterclass next week on “6 Ways to Unlock Your Creativity”. You can sign up here.

Friends, what do you think about the journey of ideas? Have you ever had an idea that was “used” already? Did that stop you from exploring the path?

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