"Don’t worry about being original, she said dismissively. Yes, everything’s been written, but also, the thing you want to write, before you wrote it, was impossible to write. Otherwise it would already exist. You writing it makes it possible."
Alexander Chen reminisces about studying with the inimitable Annie Dillard, who echoes Mark Twain’s contention that “all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources,” Alexander Graham Bell’s assertion that "our most original compositions are composed exclusively of expressions derived from others,” and young Virginia Woolf’s observation that "all the Arts … imitate as far as they can the one great truth that all can see.”
Chen’s full essay is well worth the read. Pair with Annie Dillard on writing.