Stupid Things Authors Believe, Part 1

Written by Kurt Bubna | July 14, 2015

It’s been said that if what you write isn’t new, delete it. In an attempt to promote fresh, original ideas, these pundits of the pen want us to say something no one else has ever said before or jettison it to the trash heap.

My response? Bull crap.

As an ancient and wise author once wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Seriously, after thousands of years on planet Earth and gazillions of words written, is it truly possible to say anything that hasn’t been said by someone else?

Of course, if these “experts” mean don’t just regurgitate something old, I agree. If they mean you should work at presenting a different angle or perspective on a story or experience, absolutely. And if they’re encouraging a creative explosion of thoughts through words that are uniquely you, go for it.

My concern, however, is that too many of us too often find ourselves sitting in front of a blank screen striving to be original, and nothing’s happening. We can’t get past the little voice in our head telling us we’re boring and our words worn out. We spend (waste) a lot of time worrying about saying something no one has ever said before. How silly.

Unless you’re waiting for God to hand you words on tablets of stone, just write (you ain’t Moses).

I attempt to write every day. It’s a discipline that forces me to think and to create. If writing is a skill, and it is, then I need lots of practice to develop my craft. When inspired, I might write for hours; other times it might be for fifteen minutes and less than five hundred words. But writing regularly helps me develop as a writer.

Frankly, sometimes what I write is pathetic, and it will never see the light of day. I don’t even show it to my wife, and she likes me! When it’s not a pile of worthless junk, it’s still an accumulation of rough thoughts that will need editing . . . and then more editing. And occasionally, something wonderful happens in the process, and I feel like an artist who is overwhelmed by the beauty of something I created.

That being said, here’s my point: If I think that everything I write must end up as a one-of-a-kind-never-written-before masterpiece, then I’m in trouble. I’m dead before I start, and there will be no joy in the journey. Yes, writing is work, hard work, but creating should be fun too.

So here are my suggestions:

  1. Whether you feel like it or not—write. Every day. When you feel stuck—write. When you feel uninspired—write. When you feel old, worn out and boring—write. Giving birth can be painful (ask any mom). Don’t wait for it to be easy. Don’t wait to be inspired to write; write to be inspired.
  1. Stop worrying about being unique or original. What will make your words uniquely you are not brand-new-never-written-before thoughts, but old thoughts written with your particular paradigm and insight. I love this quote by W. H. Auden, “Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about.”
  1. Without apologies, take a great idea (already said or written by someone else) and add your story and your experience. Change the words. Turn the phrase. Make it you. But simply add your story to what’s certainly been said by others. By the way, that’s not plagiarism, that’s the path to creative greatness.

We writers are a strange breed. Something in us wants to be the next C.S. Lewis, Hemingway or Stephen King. Frankly, that quest can be debilitating. Without question, dream big and write bold, but don’t be stunted by a false belief that unless you come up with something new it’s worthless.

Just write on and let the readers determine your fate. You never know what might happen when you stay true to your calling. Remember, writers write.

(In Stupid Things Authors Believe, Part 2 we’ll take a look at the tendency to treat all of our words as sacred in the editorial process.)

Bio:

Kurt W. Bubna published his first book, Epic Grace: Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot, with Tyndale in 2013. He has also published Mr. & Mrs.: How to Thrive in Perfectly Imperfect Marriage, The Rookie’s Guide to Getting Published and a devotional. Bubna is an active blogger, itinerate speaker, regular radio and television personality, and the Sr. Pastor of Eastpoint Church, a large non-denominational congregation in Spokane Valley, Washington. He and his wife, Laura, have been married for nearly forty years and have four grown children and seven grandchildren.