Don’t be Original.

“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9 HCSB).”

As a writer, I find this passage extremely depressing. Not only does it rhyme like a pessimist’s Dr. Seuss, but it also means no matter how hard I try to come up with something original, it’s been done before. A bunny who dreams about carrots being on the moon? Done before. A 3D-printed pirate who comes to life? Derivative. What about a tribe of Asparagus children who are self-conscious about how their pee smells? Okay, so I stole the last one from the movie Elf. My point is, even when you think you’re writing something original, I can assure you, you’re not. But this is actually a positive thing because the truth is (are you ready for this?) originality does not exist! Never has.

Read more: Don’t be Original.

My Hero’s Journey

How do I know this? Because I have spent the better part of ten years trying to write nothing but original work. I tried to sidestep every cliché and story trope in the book, and like the author of Ecclesiastes, I found it all meaningless. The first major story I ever wrote was because I was sick and tired of all the Western movies my family watched. The more we watched, the more I realized they were so cliché, so formulaic, and I for one, was sick of it. “I can do better!” I told my brother with pride, ignoring the fact that I had never written anything longer than two pages.

My western would be fresh, original, nothing like you’d ever read before! Set in the old West? Humph! My story would take place somewhere a Western had never been before: the Holy Lands. Israel, 1880s. As I cranked out a 60-page story with the unpronounceable title “DÜMIR” I soon realized that all I was doing was cutting Western stereotypes and pasting them into a culture I knew nothing about. There were outlaws, sure, but they rode on camels. See? Totally original!

So Satisfying!

The next story wasn’t any better. Or the next, or the one after that, and so on. As I continued to slam against the rules of storytelling like bumper rails in a bowling alley, I began to learn the hard lesson that you cannot write an original story. This is because when you boil down a story, all you’re left with are structure and themes. While there is such a thing as new plots, new locations, and new dialogue, you should always stick to the tried-and-true structures and themes. Even if you somehow came up with a brand-new idea, with brand-new problems, and brand-new themes, people wouldn’t like it. It wouldn’t be relatable. The reason the verse above rings so true is because the theme is timeless.

Even though our lives are quite different from the author of Ecclesiastes, we all go through the same things. We all feel jealousy, greed, lust, anger, hunger, love, joy, and sadness. The stories that stay with us, and last more than one generation are stories that deal with the problems everyone goes through. This does not make your story bland, and generic, quite the opposite. It makes your story satisfying, and there is nothing in the world that readers love more than a satisfying conclusion, to a satisfying story.

They’re Called Classics for a Reason

Stories are told the way they are because this is how God has written the story of mankind. We aren’t simply copying a literary style from the Bible—we are reflecting the way God unfolds this life through stories. History after all, is “His story.” I don’t think it’s a coincidence that God told the Israelites to remember Passover and tell each new generation of how He saved His people. Stories are meant to be told over and over again. Think about the stories you tell from your own life. The stories that your friends ask you to tell whenever there is someone new in the group. These are the satisfying stories. These are the timeless ones.

So don’t try to write something original. Write something timeless.

What is a timeless story from your own life that you tell everyone you meet? Let me know in the comments!

Kyle Morgan is a fulltime college student at Grand Canyon University, where he is majoring in Professional Writing for New Media. The youngest of three boys, Kyle is the final bird in his parent’s nest in the ever-growing state of Idaho. On his blog Cranial Flatulence – A comedy blog. (, he recounts his hilarious, and often embarrassing adventures of being a homeschool fundamentalist in the Pacific Northwest. You can follow him on his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.

6 thoughts on “Don’t be Original.

  1. Ooo… one of the verses that inspires me as a writer, Kyle, is the one where God reminds the Israelites to keep reminding their children. It does elevate the importance of children’s books. Thank you for your reflective post.

    1. Jennifer, this is exactly why we are supposed to tell the same stories over and over again. We need to be reminded of Biblical truths everyday! Thank you for your comment.

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