Why we writers have a bigger challenge than Shakespeare
By Alison Brodie
Author of Wild Life
Ever noticed how Googling things makes you realise that every idea you ever got has already been got by someone else? Ever thought of a neat concept, totally unique, an idea that’s going to create a buzz, get you a billion viewers on you tube, tickle your tweets, and LIKEs on a global scale only to find upon Googling that the idea not only already exists but that it heads up blogs, websites and entire communities already? Sure you have.
Google can splatt stone dead some of your smartest concepts, huh?
You think of a great idea that seems even greater because it’s so exquisitely simple, it encapsulates what the whole world feels about a particular topic, it has the ring of eternal truth, wit, insight and perspicacity about it, then you Google it and find out it’s the name of Katy Perry’s new album, a knitwear community in the Ozarks, or the motto of the Polish Boy Scouts. Life does this.
Everyone reckons Shakespeare was the bee’s knees (I bet he invented that line). Well, here’s the thing. Not only did he have less words than we have (so he didn’t have to agonise like we modern writers do over which ones to use and if he did, he just made up a new one; he invented around 2,000 words) but there were only about two million English speakers on the planet in his day compared to around 360 million today. AND THERE WAS NO GOOGLE- so you could make up what you wanted and you became the creator of whatever it was, even a word.
Originality is more of a challenge than it has ever been.
Avoiding the unwitting or inadvertent repetition or replication of previous ideas is trickier. The flip side is the vast heritage we can call on for fuelling our own flames. Throughout history, stories have been passed down and embellished along the way. That’s not to say we can all whack out smarter stuff than Shakespeare did but we can absorb ideas, feelings, styles, themes, issues, and make them our own; adding our own little bit of continuity to the continuum. We just have to try a little harder.