The Pressure to Produce Original Thought 🧠

The Pressure to Produce Original Thought 🧠


You might not have imposter syndrome. You may suffer from the Pressure to Produce Original Thought.

Table of contents

Creators Block?

Although I've only started my one-person business journey, everything I've created thus almost didn't see the light of day. Chiefly because I hated what I made because it didn't feel like I was making anything new.

A lot of creators fall into the same trap. Spending valuable time fretting over being unique. It doesn't make them better creators, instead it serves to hamper momentum and hinder growth.

I've now began to see this pattern play out across many creatives and many writers. I've dubbed it the Pressure to Produce Original Thought (PTPOT). The premise of PTPOT is very simple: You don't have to be as original as you think you do 🧠

How I stumbled across this concept

So during one of the many coronavirus lockdowns, I was chatting in a marketers group on Clubhouse. After the room ended I jumped onto a separate ‘afters’ call with two other marketers.

The Founder of the personal branding agency ‘Klowt’, Amelia Sordell and the founder of the ‘Marketing Millenials’ podcast, Daniel Murray.

After a great chat, they signed off by saying I have to ignore the nagging feeling to be original all the time. Adding the unnecessary requirement of originality for every piece of work you create means you won't create much.

Great advice on it's own, but once I completed my first Organised Thinking sprint it made me realise that it's a huge part of the wider problem related to imposter syndrome, the fear of failure, the fear of starting, and the PTPOT.

So here are three reasons why the PTPOT is an hindering presence and why you shouldn't pay it any notice.  

We all start by copying

We've been told our entire lives that originality is crucial. It's what separates the ordinary from the extraordinary. This really isn't the case when starting out. More to this point, there are very few creative niches that start this way.

Take pianists for instance. They all start out practising scales, learning how to read music and play the classics. Furthermore, they're actually graded on their ability to reproduce near-perfect replicas of the all-time classics.

So why do we not apply the same standards to ourselves? It's because we have this nagging feeling that what we make must be different to make a dent in a noisy world. However that's simply not a helpful standard to hold ourselves to.

But there's also another nagging fear we have...

It's not Plagiarism, it's Inspiration!

From an early age we're all taught that copying others work is an abhorrent sin. It results in a telling off from the class teacher. At university, you have to reference everything and put every essay we submitted to a plagiarism checker.

In the arena of social media, creators call other creators out for 'stealing their ideas;. Even popular comedians fear inadvertedly copying jokes. An example is the controversy around James Corden rehashing a Ricky Gervais joke.

So instinctively, we try to ensure we produce our work without copying others, and rightly so. However, grinding away trying to make art in a vacuum is a turgid affair.  

A better way to look at things is through the lens of this quote by Wilson Misner:

“When you take stuff from one writer it’s plagiarism, but when you take from many writers it’s called research.”

So by all means, don't steal someone else's work to pass off as your own. But don't be afraid of taking from a few sources and using your artistic licence to give it a fresh perspective.

But more to this end there's something else to take into account. And it's something you might not want to hear ...  

No one is listening

Harsh, but you need to see this for the gift it is. Because the truth is, when you start out, no one cares what you create. So use this anonymity as a safe space to hone some originality. Use the freedom to develop your own flavour and voice.

Think of it like this: once you build a substantial audience you'll never enjoy that freedom again. But even saying that, even once you have a tribe of followers, these people won't remember everything you write.

People are suffering from information overload. Busy newsfeeds, constant emails, social media. The chances are they didn't see your content, or remember it. What this means is that originality with every post isn't necessary.

Even across the novels I'm reading at the time of writing, the fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, the author G.R.R Martin repeats the physical character descriptions to remind the reader what the character looks like.  

So never be afraid of repeating yourself, being unoriginal, or remixing old ideas. People only remember things through repetition, so repeat yourself, you want people to remember message you're trying to send.

How to overcome PPOT?

Overcoming PTPOT isn't achievable through a single silver bullet. It takes repeated efforts and reminding yourself of the principles I've mentioned above. But it gets a lot easier, and in time you'll be writing freely without hesitation.

My entire personal framework 'Organized Thinking'  is geared towards circumventing this problem, so I recommend this for further reading once it launches.

Additionally "Becoming the scholar" will be an article that will help which shall be linked once it is published.