In this world, in this time, is there anyone left who is truly original? Perhaps you believe so now, but when you think about it our ideas are all just someone else's recycled thoughts. Pretty much every thought you've ever had will have been thought before - even something ridiculous, like "Would a sea monster be scarier if it were purple or orange?". You're thinking of a purple/orange sea monster now, and I thought of it before you, and someone else will have thought of it before me. There's so many people who have ever been alive that every single thought you think is bound to have been thought before.
Even famous authors hailed for their originality are actually just recycling the same old ideas again and again. Almost every book has characters, and almost every book has a setting and a plot, if it is fiction. Occasionally even if it is non fiction. Most of the time books have an ending, and more often than not they start at the beginning. Metaphors, and similes, and alliteration, and all those many writing techniques are not so much stolen as taught, the sparks of human originality beaten away little by little by the clumsy great hands of required sameness.
I remember, there was a time in primary school (I was seven years old) when I was penalised for taking a different turn in my story to my classmates. We had to write about a scary alien for a writing assessment I think, or something like that. My story was about an alien who didn't look scary in the slightest and worked as a secret alien agent to save humankind, but who everyone was scared of. This was because they knew, subconsciously, that she was different. And okay, that's really not at all original when I think about it now - but the rest of my class had written about terrifying monsters that bit people's heads off and my idiot, close-minded teacher had expected me to do the same.
She made me rewrite the story again so it more closely resembled my classmates. I had to stay behind during lunchtimes and break times to finish it.
It wasn't my own creativity, for countless others had imagined up my story components before, doubtless in a much more mature, vibrant way. I was only seven, after all. But still - I was original, if only amongst my group of thirty classmates. I defied the easy route everyone else had taken, and struggled down a path of my own, only to be punished for it.
I wonder, what was it that made that teacher so determined to squeeze every drop of creativity and childlike imagination out of me? Thinking about it, maybe the answer is that when she was younger someone decided to take her creativity from her, as she tried to do to me. Perhaps she wanted someone to know how she had felt, many long years ago, by putting them through the exact same thing that had happened to her.
Or maybe she was just a bitch.
Excuse me language. She was, though. Although she was perfectly qualified to teach maths, and literacy, and sciences, I do not think she should have been qualified to work with children. Her own daughter was in the class (coincidentally the daughter, Sophie, happened to be my mortal enemy at that point) and the teacher favoured her and her little group of friends horribly. Contrasting this, there was one time when my best friend merely scratched her head, and the teacher laughed at her and asked nastily if she had nits.
In short the teacher was a bully, even to the children she taught. I am sad to say that her daughter was also perfectly cruel, but I do not think she was naturally so mean. Her insults and taunts were originally similar to her mother's - snide and sneaking - but over the years they grew in strength and meaning, pouring generously from her mouth like water from a gushing tap of words. She copied her mother's example - and if she saw it was bad she would not or could not change - in that way that every human on this earth copies each other shamelessly, suppressing their originality quickly and effectively. She copied awful things, and in this she became an awful thing, just as someone who copies everything good will become utterly good albeit a little clichéd.
It is a shame that she did not bend the rules a little. That she did not test out her own uniquity* by declining to follow her mother's example so blindly. The sad thing is that she never even questioned it, and grows more and more like her mother, my teacher, with every passing day.
I suppose I am being harsh on the teacher, but both mother and daughter made my early primary school life a misery. It is fair to say, though, that it is more than plausible that my teacher simply followed her parent's example, and her parent's their parents, and on and on and on with none of them every thinking to test the boundaries. Discover their originality.
Am I original? No, I suspect not. But at least I question what is right and wrong, and at least I try my hardest to break through society's shell of monotonous copying. Some of you reading this will be the same as me in this respect (though different in many others). And for all my talk of putting originality on a pedestal and praising it, I do hope that you are the same as me in this one small thing.
Test the boundaries.
Break the boundaries.
Run through them screaming and frightened and smiling and better off.
- Annika Ackerman
*I will mention that I used the word 'uniquity' in this text, though it is not a word included in the dictionary or real life. I pulled it out of my brain simply because it sounds like it should be a word, the meaning is hopefully clear (it means originality), and frankly if you don't already include a few made up words in your writing from time to time you really, really should.