When I first got promoted to the role of Department Manager I spent a lot of time trying to be original. I would rack my brains attempting to set up the latest display in just the *right* way so that it would increase my sales but the minute that I saw someone else do it I would abandon the display and start over. It ended up creating a situation where I was always failing to get anything accomplished even though I spent a lot of time trying to do something.
It wasn’t until one of my favorite bosses pulled me aside one day and told me that I needed to stop being original. Original wasn’t getting it done. Instead I needed to steal everything, from everywhere, when it comes to doing what’s best for your department. Every good idea is worth doing even if it’s been done a million times before. Now what they meant by that was that just because I didn’t come up with an idea by myself doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t do it. If I see something that’s a clever idea in a Target, Walmart, or the local hardware store then I should use that in my own department to help drive sales. It’s a lesson that I’ve taken to heart in my job, and as a result I’ve become good at it, but when it comes to my creative life I tend to forget it.
Instead of taking that advice I’ve internalized at work and using it in my creative life I often find myself thinking that because I didn’t come up with an idea entirely on my own that I shouldn’t do it when I write a story, run a game, or write a blog entry. And that creates a situation where I become paralyzed; unable to do anything creative.
It’s a lesson that I keep having to teach myself. It’s okay not to be original and to take ideas from everywhere to make them my own. It’s okay that everything’s been done, because it hasn’t been done by me. It hasn’t been done by you either.
Everything’s been done, and that’s okay.
It’s okay that I wasn’t the first one to come up with the idea of a friendly dragon, or a giant that adopts a player as it’s pet, or Skull Mountain. It’s okay because my Skull Mountain will be entirely different from yours. I’ll run it with lasers, drunken robots, and angry ex-girlfriends trying to enforce their palimony settlements against the Dungeon Lord. You’ll run yours with oozes, disco dancing owlbears, and ecstasy using trolls. It’s okay that we’re using the same idea. We’re going to do it differently.
It’s okay it’s all be done, because it hasn’t been done by us.