There is a lot to be said for stealing; Shakespeare did it, and artists and singers make most of their material from scraps they take and alter beyond recognition. Cue the outcry on how all the really good people live in a cave and only make things that are totally un-influenced by any other human ever!
Oh Sweet Summer Child, Welcome To The Hive-Mind
Once you really begin to work in a consistent capacity, ideas become, well, more obviously delineated. You become aware of the way characters, plot turns, and emotional discoveries are generally similar, and your choices become more informed.
I Have No Idea What You’re Blithering About, Victor Poole
When you have the time, sit down with about twenty Wodehouse novels. Read them all. Then come back and tell me all about the young man who begins a new job, the elderly man henpecked by his wife/sister/aunt, and the obnoxious child who smokes on the sly.
P.G. Wodehouse Wrote Original Stories About Boys’ Schools
If you go backwards, past the comic novels and the adventures of Blandings Castle (and, of course, Wooster and Jeeves), you will encounter a wonderful world of boarding school novels that are both original and easily neglected.
But Original Is Better, You Fool!
I could walk you through a list of Shakespeare thefts, but for the sake of brevity, I will get to the point, which is this:
Originality often lies in exposing previously-obscured folds in common experiences.
Nana had no cheese in the fridge, but she had a five-gallon bucket of mint ice cream in the freezer, and she hoarded it carefully for her grandchildren. She did not eat much herself, Nana, and Pops preferred things that way. He was gradually starving her down, and when she lost her mind, he helped her up and down the steps with a cozy smile on his face.
Nana’s insanity made life very easy for Pops; the family was sympathetic to the helpless old couple, and he could set Nana up in front of the television for hours while he tinkered over his crossword.
He made her sit with him, while he worked, because she had started to dream dangerous dreams, and sometimes she thought she was in someone else’s home. He never had anything to say to her anymore, now that she was not sure of who he was, or of her surroundings.
Nana’s blue-white hair bobbed, and her yellowed teeth glistened as she stared out the living-room window. She was not supposed to be in this room; it was the company room, and had sat empty for years now, ever since Garret, the last one, had moved in with his wife. Garret had hidden his pills under that edge of that carpet, right before he had been taken in for evaluation. Nana could not remember if that was before or after he had moved out, though she knew that Garret’s wife had been shouting and red-faced for a long time after that.
Nana padded cautiously over the thick carpet, and laid her hand over the rim of the couch, where she had sat with her first baby daughter, or her second. She couldn’t remember. Maybe she had sat here with both.
A door slammed far away in the house, and Nana padded swiftly, with the cunning of a spider, into the hall, and to her room. She would be in her bed like an obedient doll when Pops came in.
Where’s My Superannuated Guide, Victor?!
Realize that execution and grounded perspective bring originality. Peel back the curtain on genuine pain, and realize that people are generally aware of what they are doing (even if they say they aren’t). Ignore all advice, guides (superannuated or otherwise), rules, and embrace failure, because that’s where most of the good writing happens. And lastly, realize that your unique inner world is the most original and sustainable source you can draw from.