How many times have you woken up in the middle of the night by an idea in your head that just seemed like the perfect thing to write? Or had the idea tackle you while you were attempting to do another task, like pretend your co-worker’s tirade about her favorite pens never being stocked in the supply closet was of importance to you?
Personally, I’ve lost count.
Sometimes you struggle. Other times, the plot bunnies attack.
Then, you are left with an idea that you just have to write. It is fabulous. It is exciting and for two weeks (or so) you dive into the story head first, swim about in the deep end only to come up for air, and to spend some time with family to assure them that you haven’t forgotten their names and if called upon could pick them out of a police lineup.
And then, there it is. Sometimes it is on the television, sometimes you’ll catch a glance at a book cover, or even hear a radio ad. Regardless of the source, there it is, your idea, thought out by someone else in a land far far away and boldly advertized.
It can hit you like a fist to the gut.
What’s worse, is that sometimes you will look around and see twelve, fourteen maybe even twenty people are all working on something that seems like your idea.
Does this mean that someone snuck into your house and pilfered your ideas while you slept? More than likely not.
Does it mean that someone broke in and whispered ideas into your head, hoping to get a bunch of people all working on the same topic? Doubtful.
Does it mean you copied them? Not really.
Does it mean you have to stop writing on your idea?
While each of us is a unique individual with a distinct bundle of thoughts, opinions, beliefs and backgrounds, ideas sometimes seem to float through the ether and occasionally land on group of people like pigeons descending onto an overturned bread truck.
Think of electricity. How many people were working on developing it at the same time? Loads, which is why there is often the argument over who invented it first. Or I supposed harnessed would be a better term.
And it isn’t just science.
Do you remember looking at the upcoming movies and thinking, ‘wow, do all of them have angsty teen vampires?’
Or that section of time in the eighties where is seemed everyone wanted to do a movie or television show about people switching bodies. The one that leaps to mind was Freaky Friday (the one with Jodie Foster, not Lindsay Lohan). I know there was a Kirk Cameron one as well, and I remember at least two made for television movies featuring it. All of them seemed to come out around the same time.
Just like the vampire movies.
There are more of course, in movies, tv, and of course books. Trends, themes, ideas come and go all the time and sometime in batches. And at some point someone said to themselves – ‘I have a great idea.’
Just because your idea isn’t just your idea (not as in you actually copied it from someone else, which is wrong and should not be done, but as in an honest simultaneous thought) isn’t a unique little snowflake doesn’t mean that your story won’t be. No idea is really unique under the sun, however to get out, that idea has to go through you, and your take on it will not be like anyone else’s who is writing, even if their core idea is similar. Your writing will be based on your experience and how you put together ideas and thoughts. And just because the core idea started out the same, doesn’t mean that the story will in any way resemble anything else from another source by the time it is done.
Don’t believe me?
Have you been doing the writing prompts along with me each day? Or even once in a blue moon?
If so then take out your writing and then pull up the prompt I did where the prompt matches. We both started with the same sentence. We both had the same amount of time to work. Is your page identical to mine?
I somehow suspect it isn’t.
Even when we all start with the same sentence, we end up in different places. An idea, a concept, is far more nebulous and will be even less likely to end up as the same story as anyone else at the end. If a story idea hits you and you really want to write it, go ahead and write it. It is fine if someone else has a similar idea.
Take your idea and run with it.
Do your best not to be influenced by what they do.
If your idea is in a movie or television show, don’t watch it until you are finished writing. If it is a book, don’t read it. Just write your piece.
When you are done, you can decide if you want to take a look at what another did with the same idea, and if there are too many similarities, maybe you can look at them in editing. If they end up being so similar that you just can’t take it, set it aside for the time being, be thankful that you have now gotten that story out of your head and move on to your next project. Perhaps after a time you can come back with fresh eyes and see something in it that you missed before.
Just remember having the same idea as others isn’t a bad thing. It doesn’t mean you are copying if the idea came naturally to you. It may mean that you have similar influences as some of those who also came up with the idea or there could be just something floating in the ether and the idea has decided it is it’s time to arrive. You are you, write like you and see where that takes you. Don’t scrap an idea you love just because you aren’t the only one who had the idea. Just sit down and write.