Approaches to Originality

Back in mid-2009, when we were awarded the Merlin Awards, we were especially happy to be awarded specifically for “Most Original Illusionist/ Female Illusionist of the Year”.

This was based on our objective milestones of “originality” for the past year that included “The Impossible Journey” (Teleporting 3 people across the Singapore River in 2.5 seconds), “The Impossible Record” (15 Illusions in 5 Minutes) and “Destination X” (The Car Teleportation). I think being the only professional male/ female equal illusion duo in Asia that had created “buzz” across the global magic world also helped.

We pride ourselves for being fairly original & innovative on many different levels and know that our originality is one of the many reasons for whatever modest success we have.

One of the questions we get most often is “How do we come up with new ideas?” or “How do we continue to be original and innovative?”.

Well, we have creativity systems that we use for brainstorming and idea generation but we also have a good idea of what originality encompasses. Our broad understanding of originality helps us identify what we can do that would be “new” and original in our field.

Many people equate originality to invention and think that is limited only to that. We believe invention is one example of originality, albeit probably the purest form of originality.

We think originality should be seen as originality in thinking and the application of ideas in ways that would produce an original end-product.

To be honest, 90% of what is out there can hardly be considered a complete original invention. But yet, many will agree that is a lot of originality in all fields.

For Commercial Creative Artists (CCA), originality is a way to stand out from the rest. I know some people have a hard time grasping this wide spectrum of originality but that is what separates the “good” from the “great”.

Magic-wise, when David Blaine first burst on the TV scene and basically revolutionized magic, many “old fart” magicians and haters called him unoriginal as he was not presenting “ground-breaking new” material to them.

True, he was presenting solid close-up magic that magicians had been performing for decades but he presented the magic in a style, environment and format that had never been done before. Did he invent the magic he performed? No. Is he original – absolutely.

I have had magicians tell me they are doing an original dove production because they changed the colour of the handkerchief they were doing. That doesn’t count and it is difficult to explain what originality is to someone who has that kind of mindset.

If you are a CCA and strive to be original in your respective field, I recommend you to have a look at my previous post on “Many Facets of Originality” here.

To add to that entry, here are three more approaches to consider:

Import Ideas from Other Industries to Your Industry

Look at ideas, business models or strategies that work in other industries. Import the ideas and tailor it for your own industry to create something “new”. For example, the popular Japanese “sushi train” conveyor belt system was imported from the assembly line production from factories, first invented by Ford. This created a “new” novel and efficient way of serving customers. Not invented but still original!

Look at advertising and promotional ideas from other industries. See what has not been done in your industry before and apply it accordingly.

Work on Showcasing Originality over a Body of Work/ Period of Time

It is impossible to be original in every aspect of your work. As an artist, your work will likely be built on the work of those before you; after all, we stand on the shoulders of giants.

For example, if you are a music composer, it is almost impossible to come up with a completely new sound, melody or instrumentation. However, there may be a bridge or chorus in the song that is distinctly different. Or, you might write a part of the arrangement in the song that does not follow the typical structure of a song.

Do this for a number of songs and you would have showcased original elements over a body of work and will be recognized with originality. Hopefully, these original elements in different songs will be noticed by people.

Look at any season of “American Idol” or your country’s equivalent. While the contestants all sing covers of known/ existing songs, the ones that get lauded for originality or innovativeness are those that add little touches and changes to make it their own. They did not write the songs (invent) but still made them original.

Take Credit for Your Originality

If you think you have created something original, do your homework to ensure it is original. With the Internet, it is easy enough to find if something has been done before. If not, ask people in your field who are knowledgeable and experienced.

If you do indeed seem to have something original, shout about it. Let people know about it. If you have inadvertently replicated someone else’s idea, you will no doubt hear from him/ her very soon. If not, the likelihood is that you have something original, so people should know about it; especially if you are a CCA.

Over time, if you can replicate your originality and prove you are not a “one-hit wonder”, your originality will translate into commercial value for you.

One final note:

Being original does not mean that the quality of the end-product can be low. The high quality of the end-product is a given and must not traded in for the sake of being original. No point having an original end-product that sucks.


About J C Sum

International Headline Entertainer, Content Creator and Investor
This entry was posted in Commercial Creative Artist and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Approaches to Originality

  1. Pingback: 3 Tips to Stand Out as a Commercial Creative Artist | BACKSTAGE BUSINESS

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