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Originality is the fine art of remembering what you hear but forgetting where you heard it.

Laurence J. Peter

O riginality comes up in conversation internally and with clients on a reasonably regular basis. Some clients want a replica of their competitor’s video, whereas some wish to have something created that is as close to ‘original’ as possible. Being interested in storytelling, music and art, the very concept of originality has become quite fascinating to me…especially so as it seems that it doesn’t really exist.

To explain why I believe this to be so, think about animals. There are approximately 1.2 million known species. Now think of a completely original animal. It’s harder than it sounds, isn’t it? Maybe you’re thinking of something with three eyes and twenty legs or a furry whale, a rhino with octopus tentacles or a wolf covered in bunny tails? Regardless, nothing you come up with will be fundamentally unique. Is a unicorn an original idea? No, it’s a horse with a horn on it’s head. Neither the concept of the horse nor the horn is an original design. Stating otherwise is like taking a chapter from ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ and splicing it into the middle of ‘Lord of the Rings’ and calling it a brand new book.

Another example is the physical universe. Everything in the entire universe, with the exception of energy, is made up of matter. So then, you can reason that in fact, everything is made up of atoms. We encounter atoms in different forms and arrangements but essentially, you can describe something as either a solid (atoms tightly packed together, generally in a regular pattern), a liquid (atoms in close proximity with no regular arrangement) or a gas (fairly well separated with no regular arrangement). Try to imagine a fourth form. You probably thought of a gelatinous liquid or a rubbery solid, variations on what already exists but it is very unlikely, or more accurately put, almost impossible that you imagined a completely new arrangement.

Originality is simply a pair of fresh eyes.

Thomas W. Higginson

Originality is only perceived through ignorance. You could describe a tree as being completely original but only if you have never seen a tree before. This being the case, the only thing we can strive for is rarity. The lesser known the creative approach, the more original it will appear to be.

The truth is that nothing is original. We observe and we reproduce variants. Human beings seem incapable of true originality. In truth, we’re probably all plagiarisers (if indeed plagiarism can actually exist without originality).

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