How many times have you written a story or thought of an idea, only to read or see something similar, somewhere else, a day, a month, or a year later?
I wonder what Dan Santat, creator of The Adventures of Beekle, The Unimaginary Friend and the creators of Big Hero Six thought when they first saw each other’s chubby white guy protagonists.
Did they notice the physical similarities?
If so, did they say, “Oh, look! Great minds think alike! I’m so flattered!”? Or, did they say words you shouldn’t express in picture books or PG movies?
I had just finished a manuscript about a dog who glories in the food of his master, loses all hope when his master changes his eating habits, and regains hope again when a meatball plops on his tail. Then I saw the short film The Feast.
My heart plopped like that meatball.
I wrote an alphabet manuscript revealing the ABCs through children’s name. Then I read Annoying ABC by Barbara Bottner, an alphabet book revealing the ABCs through children’s names.
I wrote about an ostrich who wants to fly. Then I read Flight School by Lita Judge, about a penguin who has an ostrich friend who wants to fly.
I changed the character to a pig. Then I saw a television commercial with a flying pig and remembered Mo Willems’ Today I Will Fly.
Is nothing sacred?
So I changed the protagonist to a giraffe. Then I saw Birds Can Fly and So Can I, by Noa Nimrodi.
Sigh . . .
How about a Mouse? Or better yet, an elephant, you say?
You’re killin’ me.
Idea clones aren’t new:
Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new after all.
― Abraham Lincoln
Idea clones don’t haunt the pros.
The most successful artists don’t sweat over being original, they sweat over being authentic.
Look at Beekle. Dan Santat knows his creation is a totally different guy than Big Hero Six. He’s laughing all the way to DreamWorks Animation, with his Caldecott Medal.
Look at Art. He’s the central character who makes for funny wordplay in Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith’s Seen Art?, David Wiseman’s Art and Max, and Kelly Light’s Louise Loves Art.
Everyone loves Art. No one cares that his name isn’t original.
Really, there’s not an original idea out there. If you can imagine it, someone else can and likely has. It’s like naming your child “Ava,” thinking you’ve thought of the most original name in the world.
Luckily, no one else is going to create an Ava or an Art just like your Ava or Art. So, in our own small way, we can be original in our authenticity.
Here’s to chubby white guys, Avas and Arts. We look forward to seeing more of you in the future.
Aww… I’m going to have to come back to reread this blog each time my newest, most groundbreaking, original gets ‘done’ before mine ever gasps its first breath. Thanks for the pep talk and perspective.
Thanks, Lou! Like the Ecclesiastes 1:9 phrase: There’s nothing new under the sun. But there’s only one you. Tell your stories with confidence, because no one can replicate your voice, imagination, or charm.