The same old message again

The following things happened in one 40-minute conversation with my brilliant book club.

  • One member noted that in this week’s lesson for an online course she’s taking, the book we’re reading came to mind several times because the messages were similar.
  • Another noted that in several spaces in her life recently, including our book, people have been talking about Marcus Aurelius. 
  • I noted that I had seen one of the sentiments from the book in a meme, but in a completely different context.
  • Another asked about a certain thought from the book, and I said I had experienced it but in a different context.

Sometimes creative people get stuck because they think they don’t have any original ideas. Really, the vast majority of ideas are mashups of other people’s work, the creator’s take on a theme or a feeling or a detail.

For example, to get to this blog post, all of the pieces of other people’s work in that list above needed to come together in this group of people who had a conversation. 

Even if all the people in book club wrote about something that happened at book club, we’d end up with a collection of different stories. That would still be true, even if we were tasked to write about the same thing.

Everyone’s creative work is entirely original and not at all original. 

Why is it valuable to have the same message delivered from different people?

You might not be aware of the others delivering similar content.

No one reaches everyone. Even books and personalities that are wildly popular only reach a small percentage of people.

You might prefer voices of a certain tone, or from a specific culture or religion or demographic.

Different people have different voices, which means they reach different kinds of audiences. Likewise, a black trans woman will be received differently than a cis Asian man delivering the same message. TikTok is received differently than TED talks. Change those platforms and descriptors to any demographics: gender, sexuality, race, socioeconomic status and history, religion, level of fame, your prior interactions with them or someone you perceive as similar, and on and on.

Even within a homogenous subculture, sometimes, it’s just “someone different” who gets the message across. Parents complain about this with regards to kids listening to their teacher or their uncle or their friend’s mom when the same words spoken at home go unheeded.

You might need more than one pass before the message is understood.

Sometimes, it simply takes more than one pass before the message is understood, so the more ways the message comes to you, the more likely you are to get it.

You might need to be in the right mindset before the message is understood.

Sometimes, it takes being in the right mindset before the message can be absorbed, so again, unless you’re just revisiting all the old content in cycles, having the same thing said by a different person makes it more likely to show up when you’re in a space where you can receive it.

So: create. Put your take on it (whatever “it” is) out into the world. While you’re not going to have smashing (or even minimal) success every time, you never know who needs to hear what you have to say right now.

Also, the book is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. You should read it.

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