It is physically impossible for me to sit at my writing computer for more than 14 seconds without music. I begin to twitch, and then I fall to the floor pulling out clumps of my own hair and humming "Hotel California."
Fortunately, Pandora internet radio ensures I don't have to suffer. It also exposes me to a steady stream of new music (which I race out and purchase on iTunes when I hear something I like).
A few weeks ago, Pandora played a song that sounded familiar. I recognized the words. The melody seemed like something I'd heard before. Still, I couldn't quite place it.
It wasn't until I clicked on the title that I realized what it was:
That's Mat Weddle of the folk/pop band Obadiah Parker doing an acoustic version of Outkast's insanely popular 2003 hit "Hey Ya." Even if you aren't a hip-hop fan, you've surely heard the original. Maybe you've even been known to shake it like a Polaroid picture when no one's looking.
I'm not here to judge.
Here's a refresher on the Outkast version, just for the sake of comparison:
I bought both versions for my iPod, and I dig each of them for totally different reasons.
One reason is the fabulous reminder that something doesn't have to be 100% original to be amazing.
I've heard tons of authors fretting about the uniqueness of a story they want to write. They worry their idea has been done before, and most of the time, they're right. How often have we seen modern twists on age-old stories? Romeo and Juliet spawned West Side Story. Jane Austen's Emma inspired Clueless.
I don't kid myself that I'm the first author to write a pirate-themed romance novel with MAKING WAVES, but I might be first to include a frisky game of Strip Battleship or a discussion of the difference between a hand-job and a foot-job. Even without those scenes, I feel confident my own unique voice puts a different spin on things.
I guess that's why I don't spend too much time worrying about coming up with a story that's never been done before. My focus is on finding ways to make my version original, and to set it apart from what's been done before.
Do you struggle to come up with unique ideas? In what way do you put your own stamp on something that's been done before? Please share.
And please lend me some sugar. I am your neighbor.