Inspired by singer-songwriter Ryan Adams
Have you ever had that moment where you get an idea in a flash? It seemingly bubbles up out of nowhere, and feels like waking up to realize suddenly it's Christmas, only it's February?
You race to jot the idea down, to tell someone, to look up a URL to see if it's taken. You're ecstatic. This is it.
And then, you find out that thing has already been done. Your thought is, after all, not as original as you'd hoped. The song has already been sung. The non-profit already started. The book already written. The blog already posted. The recipe already formulated. And all, to your surmise, better than you could ever do.
This is the part where you might let your idea go, wait for another, work on another. Give up on it.
And in some cases, that might be exactly the right thing to do.
But - what about when it isn't?
A few months ago rock artist Ryan Adams released a complete cover album of Taylor Swift's 1989. I've loved Taylor Swift's music ever since I heard "like a spotlight on the lake," and she's been the only artist in my life from whom I've bought every song, seen the same concert twice, and can listen to the same album years later and get something new out of it.
So when I found out there was another 1989 coming out I bought it right away. Truth be told, I'd never heard of Ryan Adams (I'm more of a pop/country/rap/R&B kind of person), but I didn't care. I loved the songs on 1989 and having another version sounded wonderful.
I listened to the whole thing in one sitting, and it changed something for me forever.
No, not my taste in music. While I appreciated Ryan's version so much, and was amazed at what he did, Taylor's version is still the one that dominates my car rides. But listening to Ryan Adams' version taught me something big, something I will never forget:
You bring something to every thing you create - something unique to you, no matter if it's been done before.
This may seem obvious, but, if I'm really honest, it wasn't to me until this moment. Sure, it's something I probably hoped, something I thought. But, I heard Ryan Adams' 1989 at a time when I was doubting all of that - when all I thought all I brought to the table were proverbial "Pinterest fails."
It came at a time where I was doubting that I had anything to add at all - to anything or anyone. It was a dark time.
Ryan Adams and Taylor Swift taught me that artistry is more than words. If singers, and their interpretation, can still change everything, than maybe I can. Maybe you can.
It seems to me we come with this capacity to put our own spin on stuff. Our own interpretation, one that truly can't be replicated, even if it's done again. Sometimes I like to imagine what it would look like if we put every painting every kindergartner painted today on a giant wall. While I'm sure there would be some similarities, I would bet that no two would be the same.
Maybe that seems trite. But to me, it's nothing less than absolutely amazing. Astounding. Breathtaking. Exciting.
You have a spin to put on things, and I think that spin matters. Because even if it’s been done before, if hasn’t been done by you, then it hasn’t really been done. We still need you.
So next time you're worried your song has already been sung, I say, sing it anyway. You never know who it might reach, who it might change, or how it might change you.