A Voice in the Crowd



Last week I paused at the supermarket and selected Valentines for the chickens to distribute to their fellow preschoolers. After passing by innumerable boxes emblazoned with mainstream cartoon personalities (likely to please the chickens, but make me gag), I discovered cards emblazoned with fish—as you tipped the card around in your hand, the images moved and shifted. 

Clever, I thought. I went home and packaged them up.

Three days later what came home were handfuls of these morphing-image cards–each obviously not one mother’s lofty balk to consumerism but simply this year’s hot item.

It got me thinking about how rare the truly original idea is.

I recently read a New Yorker article that commented on several simultaneous inventions throughout the course of history. Even before the collective thinking of the Internet, people were having the same thoughts at the same time at opposite points of the globe. Or take for example the phenomenon of baby naming—despite that most couples think they are innovative, every year lots of people name their kid the exact same name. (My name was, in fact, the third most popular in my birth year).

This goes for writing topics, too. Sometimes it seems I’ve had a story idea for all of two seconds before I see it in a magazine. And though I loathe the thought, there is probably someone out there right this very minute writing practically this same blog entry (whoa).

What can we rely on if our ideas are as likely to be in someone else’s head as ours alone? Who gets heard: he who hollers the loudest, she with the freshest angle?

I am banking on honesty and voice. Let’s see where that gets me.

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