how to be original

By February 22, 2013 31 Comments


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.



Join the discussion 31 Comments

  • Madhavi says:

    I love your amazing work. You are so much inspiring!!!!

  • Eliza rosen says:

    This is so what I needed to hear right now. Thank you for your beautiful insight!

  • Anna Sontag says:

    This reminds me that we are engaging with Source, and that expressing our inspiration is part of the work aka gift we are engaged in the world to do. Sharing my inspiration is part of me honoring my place on the planet, respecting Spirit – within me, around me, everywhere!

  • Kim says:

    To me, engaging with Source is about going inwards and trusting our intuition. We are all original and photography has shown me this over and over again. When a group of photographers spends time with the same subject, and if they are truly focused on what comes from within, all of the images will be completely unique.

  • Catherine says:

    Beautiful post!

    I remember reading many years ago that the word ‘inspired’ came from ‘inspiritus’ which roughly translated means to be in spirit or to have the energy of spirit flow through you. So our inspiration is our own unique connection to Source energy.

    I also think the post raises an important issue. In our modern world we have been trained to compete which is a masculine trait. When we understand that we are each individual conduits for Spirit we can honour our own unique talents and gifts and competition ceases to exist. Instead we can support each other in the co-creative process of bringing each others particular ‘flavour’ of Source energy into the world. This is a feminine trait.

    Much love on your beautiful work,

    Catherine x

  • Exactly what I needed today, dearest Tara. Thank you.

  • Meredith says:

    I really appreciate this article, especially the part about moving towards source as opposed to feeling like I need to write something that’s never been written before, to be original. I still struggle with figuring out ways to be original, but I do experience the moments of being myself most often when I’m taking good care of myself. This often involves slowing down for me as well – reading a good book or article, slowly sipping tea in a sunny spot, taking a long bath, going and hearing some good music with a girlfriend, or having a long and in depth conversation with a friend about what’s really going on. I’m always looking for new ideas to cultivate originality, so I love hearing from people here! Thanks all!

  • Teresa says:

    I totally agree with Catherine’s comments about competition. I used to feel threatened by other “competitors”, but now, instead of feeling competitive toward them, I say “good for you, great work”. If you focus too much on your competition you’re not giving yourself 100% of the energy that could be put toward *your* business, making yourself that much stronger. 🙂

  • Darlene Cary says:

    How do I move closer to origin? It often involves a sacred object that evokes deep listening. A rosary, or mala, when touched, reminds my heart and mind to be present and really listen. To center.

  • Mimi says:

    Tara, perfect advice for writers. Thanks!

  • Katie says:

    I think it is also prudent to remind ourselves that our own personal silent realm is not always physically silent. Silence is always two fold for me. I strive to turn inward for silence rather than try to shut off the external. Moving closer to origin is looking more closely at what stirred inside me, when is stirred, and honoring the existence of experience.

  • Susan Perry says:

    I must confess that I often begin reading these posts in a state of resistance, “not applicable to me, not practical.” But by the end of the post I am saying “yes, of course, how did I get so far away from what I understand to be truth?” Originality as a product or result may be valued but as a process or work style is still often considered suspect.

  • Fay says:

    This is a fabulous post Tara – thank you – It has set the scene perfectly for my writing for the weekend.
    More of these please!

  • Joyce says:

    For me it means creating something that speaks to me..or for me. It means not following the trends, or if I do, somehow making that my own. Usually I’m helped along in this by exercise, spending time in nature and prayer….moving closer to the source/origin. Listening to those hints from within instead of discounting them. I make a lot of work that no one sees because it’s so personal, but making it has an effect on the work I do share.

  • You captured the essence of originality in a definition that I always instinctively knew it was. You just said it before me. That’s the very thing you address, though: the it’s-been-done-before mentality; and yet I am undeterred in lieu of the recent discussion because I am striving to do what lies closest to my origin. I know my philosophies and how I still have things that make me unique and set me apart so much already. If I live by that, I will continue to be original.

  • What stirs you very well may stir others too.

  • kristelle says:

    Being original, being close to what is unique and letting that be one’s outward (and inward) expression is good. What I struggle with is the judgements of others – being a little bit different is okay but being seen as a lot different means one is considered ‘weird’. Sometimes this doesn’t matter but it can also make life quite difficult…..

  • Akemi says:

    After seeing so many blogs that basically says the same thing over and over, I am so glad to find this!

    Being original is easy. It’s how we are. The only catch, I think, is being un-original and using the formula someone else used to succeed might feel easier. It’s tempting. Who wants to venture into the unproven path?

    So I congratulate that you did ventured into your own path.



  • I love this post! It is very inspiring. When I am stuck, I quiet my mind and listen to my heart and inner voice/inner knowing/spirit. This is where my “origin” resides. Thank you for teaching me a beautiful way to think about it!

  • Emma says:

    I love the power of the source. When I work as my original self, I can notice that doubt and anxiety appears less, and happiness, calm and ease more often.

  • Wow, this shines a totally new light on the essence of originality for me. Usually when somebody says things like ‘you can’t be original’ or ‘everything has already been done’ I intuitively protest but can’t find the words to counter these remarks. Thank you for this new insight, beautiful and empowering.

  • What a great way of reframing such a wonderful but overused word. Thanks so much for this post – it is inspiring to say the least – we are all creative, but so many people get hung up on their work looking like someone else’s or needing to stand out with something ‘new’.

    This helps clarify the importance of going within to find our truly best creative work, instead of comparing ourselves with others on the outside. Also, making sure we allow ourselves the time and space in to connect with source at all is kinda Step 1. ‘Go within or go without!’ as a friend said to me the other day…

  • Tara Mohr says:

    Thank you Madhavi!

  • Tara Mohr says:

    Oh good. Glad it came at the right time.

  • Ana Devine says:

    My fear has been following my instincts. A large part of my adult life has been unlearning those patterns developed by aping my environment, but I have been noticing in the last few months that I’ve been treading water now that I reached a place where I have generative tendencies that are true to who I am and what I can uniquely create.

    Coming closer to the Source means valuing my patterns of thought, behavior, and interest. Allowing my critical mindset to be what it is – an evaluating tool, rather than my entire evaluative paradigm. I have pruned with rigor, and it’s BEEN time to do what “comes naturally” and see what comes of it. And because I know how to step back and view my actions, behaviors, and thinking, I don’t need to fear that I’ll go “nuts”. I’m not that person, and I’ve surrounded myself with people who I can trust to tell me when they see me being ineffective, inauthentic, or just not me.

    Coming closer to the Source at this point in my life means doing what I want, and being open to what actions centered in my desire bring into my life.

  • Beautiful post Tara. For me, it’s all about truthfulness: not running and hiding in the way I feel I should be, but in embracing the truth of my heart’s purpose and my particular stage of the journey. It’s not always easy!! 🙂

  • What an original way to think about originality! Thanks Tara.

    What supports me most in original work is two things:

    1. Listening. Working from a private, quiet place, centering myself, even asking questions if I get stuck, like “Where does this song/post/book go next?”

    2. DOING original work. Waiting for inspiration is fine and well (and admittedly the most fun way to create something), but sometimes it seems I’ve got to start creating first, just practicing or trying or writing something, then the muse shows up to meet me.

  • […] Tara Mohr recently discussed originality in terms of moving closer to the origin.  The closer each of us are to source, the clearer our self-expression grows. Our originality is a constant well, born in the reality of who we are. It’s not something we can scavenge and sweat and search for. It’s something we ARE, effortlessly. […]

  • Sophie says:

    These words are so wise and true and yet it makes me also realize how restless my spirit is and how fast my mind races..the reminder to paint, read, medidate and not always try and keep up with the pace of life..or to run from myself..

  • Azam says:

    thanks for lovely text. you inspire me.
    i am very glad with you, you work on future, not only for womens but also for mens .

  • Annie says:

    Such a good reminder for me because I often get hung up on the internal voice that says, “No one will listen to you because what you have to say has already been said.” The notion of being original is being closer to origin helps me to remember that my voice, what I want to put out into the world is unique to me and someone out there will benefit. Thanks!!!

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