It’s all been done before; our jobs, as artists, is to do it all over again.
When I was a young girl, I used to be obsessed with doing the thing no one has done before. This was easy to do, simply because my own knowledge and understanding of the world was accordingly limited. I simply didn’t know how much had already been done.
Getting older narrowed the field: that story has been told, that picture taken, that image drawn.
It was defeat, to learn these things. Why bother? It’s been done.
It took reading and writing fanfiction (irony points! I got ’em!) to realize how wrong I was about the value of “new.” Nothing in fanfiction is new, it’s every existence is a riff on something else, and often times those references are piled up on each other not unlike phyllo dough in baklava.
After reading my umpteenthousandth “coffee shop AU” fanfic featuring the same five characters re-imagined in umpteenthousand ways in a coffee shop I realized: nothing is new, everything is old, and it’s (nearly) always wonderful anyway.
It’s not just fanfiction, either. Can we say that James Bond, as a character and a cliche, is new? Sure, Skyfall covered some interesting territory but, ehhhh, nothing groundbreaking. The movies still keep coming.
Which is true so for many genres of stories, so many movies, so much music. It’s been done.
I thought creativity was only valuable if it created something absolutely unique, but the truth is that even the most groundbreaking art or projects were built on the knowledge (art, technology, science, philosophy) that came before.
Which is freedom. The uniqueness of a piece, its intrinsic worth as art or writing or music, rests in its creator and is not dependent on being the only peculiar representation of its kind.
That is, what I bring to the table as an artist is the most important part of creation.
None of us start with new. It’s all been done before.
…and coffeeshop AUs are awesome.