I set high standards for myself. When I create something, it should be original. When I posit an opinion, it should be well-informed. And lately, I haven’t been able to meet my standards.
I feel stuck in a creative rut, and while some of that is from exhaustion or laziness or habit, part of it is not my fault, I swear. Part of it is that there’s so much content out there to consume that I feel I can no longer produce anything new.
When it comes to poetry, every abstraction has been discussed, every emotion expressed, every thought connected to an image. When it comes to opinions, if mine hasn’t already been said somewhere else, there’s too many angles, perspectives, arguments and counterarguments floating around for me to capture and root my thoughts in. Whatever I contrive to add to this gigantic network of ideas would be redundant or refuted by something else.
I understand that it can be great to hold an opinion that other people share. In most conversations, I hope that people will agree with me. But when it comes to things like this blog, when I’m trying to create content that will be worth someone’s time to read. If I’m going to invite you to click through to this page, or to stop and read a poem, or to look at a video, I shouldn’t be presenting you with something you’ve seen or heard before. You know the feeling when you scroll through your Facebook feed and scroll by ten different articles all saying the same thing (“5 Things I Love About My Sister,” “Open Letter to My Sibling,” “Why Having a Sister Is the Best Thing in the World” . . .). I don’t want to be one of those.
Now, if we’ve made it through thousands of years of thought and creativity to this point, there’s probably still room for a little more. Between the spaces taken up by what’s already been said or created, there are cracks where new things can slip through. I just feel that I’m not skilled enough to maneuver between those cracks. It seems I’ll just get sucked up into the spaces already filled and readily accessible.
While I’m definitely not the first one who’s thought this way (especially given that the crux of this thought is “I’m unoriginal”) and I hate the claim that the Internet age has fundamentally changed society in a way it’s never been changed before, I can’t help but wonder if this particular flavor of creative futility has existed before. While it’s always easy to assume your thought has been expressed elsewhere before, now it’s very easy to prove it. I could Google any thought I have while I’m experiencing it and find it already published on a blog, in a tweet, or in a philosophy book (if it’s a particularly deep thought). More digging would find it in a poem or a sculpture, or find an article that invalidates it entirely. The omnipresence of this proof of my unoriginality makes it especially hard to convince myself otherwise.
I’m hoping this is just a moment of doubt in what will otherwise be a long and illustrious career of creating things, and that years from now I’ll open this post and wonder how I could have ever doubted myself, but right now, this feels true to me. I would ask if you understand, but I’m afraid I already know.