Originality, A Myth

Due to some recent events in my life, this idea of imitation and originality has been popping up everywhere. I was lucky enough to be a part of the brand new in-flight safety video for Middle East Airlines, which is my home country’s leading airline. Much of the criticism it has been receiving is its lack of originality, yet when I did my research and looked back to the first ‘creative’ in-flight safety video which was done in 2009 by New Zealand airlines, and started watching those that came next I noticed a trend. They each had their own spin on the one that came before, so in a way each one was different but similar at the same time.

So, I know what you are asking yourselves right about now…why on Earth am I talking about in-flight safety videos on a website that discusses screenwriting? The answer to that question is simple: originality.

In a world that has been creating content for audiences since the 1890’s, it is baffling to me how people still believe that there is such a thing as ‘originality’ especially when it comes to art. All art is an inspiration of what came before it with extra spices and minor changes to the recipe — any denial of that is utter delusion.

In an article from 2014 entitled ’10 Myths About Creativity You Need to Stop Believing Now’, writer Martin Zwilling discusses David Burkus’s book and the topics Burkus discusses. One of those topics is in fact the myth of originality. Burkus states:

“There’s a long-standing myth about intellectual property — the idea that a creative idea is proprietary to the person who thought of it. But history and empirical research show more evidence that new ideas are actually combinations of older ideas and that sharing those helps generate more innovation.”

In essence, to deny that is again to be delusional.

So how can we, as writers, as painters, as actors, as musicians, as directors, as advertising agencies, or any form of artists out there be ‘original’ or our own voice? I have two great quotes that can answer that question. The first comes from C.S. Lewis:

“No man who bothers with originality will ever be original. If you simply try to tell the truth you will become original without ever having noticed.”

As a writer, I find this to be quite inspiring. I just have to be honest and genuine with what I am writing, with the worlds I am creating, and the characters I am sculpting.

The second quote comes from one of my favorite poets, Allen Ginsberg:

“To gain your own voice, forget about having it heard. Become a saint of your own province and your own consciousness.”

In an nutshell, ignore what people say when you speak your mind via your art; ignore what the audience might say, or whine about; ignore your fears; be true to yourselves. We now live in a oversaturated world, where it is easy to proclaim ones opinion out loud on forums, social media accounts, and even blogs. The key to that, however, is to make sure you are well researched and that your intentions are in the right place.

I am proud of what Middle East Airlines did and will hold true that it was our Lebanese voice that echoed throughout the video. We were true to ourselves, to our land, to our country, and for me and the thousands out there who viewed and enjoyed the video it will be something we cherish for years to come.




Animation | Screenwriter | Founder of SCRIPT2SCREEN | Storyteller | TEDx Speaker | Unicorn | Dreamer

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Alan Mehanna

Alan Mehanna

Animation | Screenwriter | Founder of SCRIPT2SCREEN | Storyteller | TEDx Speaker | Unicorn | Dreamer

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