I think everyone who is creative suffers from the fear of treading familiar ground. It is natural, and not an unfounded concern. Let’s face it, Man has been here for a very long time and we have told stories and created works of art since those first days and so it is to be expected that we will tell some of the same stories, take the same pictures, paint the same things, and so on and so on. There is the saying – nothing new under the sun – and sure that is true, yet, it isn’t.
Here is an example – so I write a ghost story. Ok, been there, done that. Lots. Lots AND lots. It’s a ghost story about a girl. Still familiar. A ghost story about a girl living in a town. And? Ok, a ghost story about a girl, in a town, and she is blind. Hmmm… A ghost story about…
You get the picture.
Yes, ‘it’s all been done before’ but not by us. And the ‘by us’ is what makes each work special because we each see things through a highly specialized prism that alters how we will relay the information we want to convey. And, add to that, it’s the details that hide the nature of the devil. I was telling a ghost story, something that has been done a million times but, in adding the details to the story I made it more unique. Sure, it may not be COMPLETELY unique in that ‘all been done’ sort of way but we can put our mark on things and make them different and compelling just the same.
When someone dismisses something as being too familiar and don’t give you anything more than that then they are simply seeing the surface of things. Sure, the work may not reflect something that moves or touches or speaks to them but it doesn’t invalidate the work wholly. Every flower is similar because they are all flowers, but if you look more closely they start to stand out. Same with snowflakes and so many other things.
So, sure, nothing is new under the sun. Until that is you look to the trees, the flowers, the lakes, the people, the animals, the insects, the grass, and on and on and on until you discover that while it isn’t new, the world is too full and vast to relegate it as familar and trite. It isn’t always easy but what artists and storytellers have to do is to make those familiar things seem alien and new and to breath new life into them, or to at least stink them up real good.