If you are an artist struggling to uncover your artistic voice, an entrepreneur working to differentiate yourself, a scholar hoping to make a mark on your field, or an employee trying to stand out in your organization – you are probably occupied, in some way, with the task of trying to create something original. Something fresh. Something unique. Something different.
How do we really do that? How do we produce original work – especially now when there is just so much more creative work being produced?
Or, to put it differently, how can we each cut the crap – the influences of the noise of the culture, the pull to talk about what everyone else is talking about– and access our original contribution?
I love what priest and author Cynthia Bourgeault has to say about it:
Original doesn’t mean ‘first in time’; it means ‘closest to the origin.’
What is genuinely original, she writes, is what is closest to origin, what is “intimately connected to Source.”
In other words, be original by moving closer to origin.
Being original is not about trying to think a thought that no one thought before. It is about something far more doable: moving toward your Creative Source. Nuzzling up to her. Hiking over to her. Canoeing across the river to where she lies.
When you move closer to the origin of your creativity and commune and communicate with that Source, you will inevitably produce unique work – because Source expresses itself through each of us in a different way. In fact, that is literally what we are: a collection of diverse ways that Source has chosen to express itself.
For me, moving toward source means slowing down. I don’t mean anything dramatic, like cutting things out of my schedule or sitting in long periods of meditation. I mean doing some quiet reading, instead of watching a fast paced TV episode. Or, choosing, when I’m in a traffic jam, to roam with my thoughts and listen to them – instead of focusing on my frustration or distracting myself with a phone call. Showing up at the blank page to write, sitting through the icky stage, and listening, listening for the whisps and whispers coming through. In other words, it’s whatever helps me move past the complainy, anxious, chattering thoughts into my real thoughts, the ones that are co-created with the influence of a vaster, more silent realm.
Just like any movement, the move toward Source is a move away from something else. As you move toward your own Source of ideas, toward your own internal creative generator, you move away from the norms of the day, the taken for granted truths of your time. But that is actually what you wanted, when you set out to be original.
Be original by moving closer to origin.