I’ve heard some writers are discouraged to hear someone else has written something similar to their topic, or that their work-in-progress reminds a friend of an already-successful book or article.
I understand this reaction. Writing is a deeply personal undertaking, one where we invest time and headspace and emotions and so naturally are reluctant to discover an existing similarity. After all, we want our ideas to be the first, or at least to be uniquely the best.
When I began writing, I would threaten to quit every time I saw that someone had “gotten there first.” I didn’t want to read what else was out there in case they did it better. Worst of all, I assumed that if it was already out there, everything about my topic had already been explored.
I know better now and I want you to as well. Each writer who writes with sensitivity, care, and skill brings their own individual perspective to a subject. We’re drawing from a lifetime of experiences that no one else has shared. Our memories shape the characters and settings and descriptions we provide, making your writing completely your own.
But more importantly, it will be very rare to find a topic that’s never, ever been written about, discussed, or discovered. One very dear person in my life once asked me, “Is Einstein the only person who’s allowed to study relativity?” In my emotional response, I said, “It’s not fair that he’s the first!” I wanted that title.
However, it may be better to re-frame our self-sabotage by considering our work not “yet another book on XYZ,” but instead containing a new voice that will affect readers differently than what already exists. Take love poems, for example. Or horror. There are always new ways to say something. Your way might be the one that resonates with someone new.