Hands up if you love you a little bit of early-90s Canadian punk rock! No, just me? Well, check out this tidbit: “Only so many songs can be sung with two lips, two lungs and one tongue.” I love Nomeansno, but on this point the brothers Wright and I must disagree.
Human beings have been singing their songs and telling their stories for eons. From the spoken word to the first papyrus-backs to today’s e-books, there have been millions upon millions of bits of fact and fiction, turned into content for readers to enjoy, disagree with, cry over, burn and ignore.
It’s a never-ending stream of books, articles, songs, speeches, poems, graphic novels, plays, blog posts and tweets. And we never get tired of it.
Will that stream ever dry up? Will there ever be a time when there are no more stories to tell? Definitely not (although that itself would make a great story). Yes, the themes of human life—love, death, spirituality, growth, forgiveness, existence—these are common to all of us. But our own stories…well, those are as unique as DNA. And that’s what other people want to hear.
If you’re like me, you get a dozen ideas a day. Each one of those ideas has the potential to be exceptional, because you’re the only one who can write it.
By all means, read as much as you can and research your genre and the market. You might want to consider tweaking that sparkly-vampire love story you thought was so amazing, or the friends-with-benefits rom-com you thought was so daring. But never think that just because someone’s written something similar to your idea that you can’t put your unique spin on it.
According to the infinite monkey theorem, given enough time, a monkey hitting the keys of a typewriter at random will write the entire works of Shakespeare. But there is nothing random about a writer’s voice. Applied with intention, your creativity and individual perspective can write a story that no-one else can.
Only so many stories? Don’t you believe it for one second.