Why It’s More Important To Be Original Than To Be New
Posted on April 3rd, 2011
When I was in college I majored in philosophy and enjoyed it enormously. Classes were about talking, no one took any notes, my classmates wore dreadlocks and my tutors were bald men who came to class wearing turquoise beads (true story). But I have to confess that two years on, most of the stuff that I learned and talked and wrote about has fallen out of my brain.
When I did philosophy, one of the (many) things I struggled with was this question: How can anyone hope to uncover something new or come up with a groundbreaking school of thought when, from Socrates to Hume to Sartre, it seems as if all the great thoughts have been thought before?
And that’s when they told me the secret to philosophy: It’s way more important to be original than to be new. The point of studying and engaging in philosophy, in dialogue and argument and an exchange of ideas, was never to come up with something new, but to be original in the sense of bringing forth a thought or an argument that comes from you. That’s why we are graded not just on our opinions, but on the processes by which we arrive at those opinions.
When I started this site I felt daunted by the weight of a blogosphere that seems as unending as the cosmos. Thousands of blogs are created everyday, millions of words scribbled into cyberspace, just about every one with a keyboard seeking an audience to their words. How can anyone ever find something new to write about?
The truth is, being new is overrated and increasingly impossible. You want to be a road warrior? The LegalNomad is already doing it. You want to be a motivation guru? See Danielle LaPorte. You want to inspire people with your fashion sense? May I introduce you to ThatsChic.
But that’s not the point is it? In writing as in philosophy as in life, it is far more important to be original than to be new. To write and think and live the way that only you can write and think and live is originality. Being new is just cherry on top of the pie.