It’s only recently that I actually looked up the whole quote by Twain, which is:
There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.Mark Twain, Mark Twain’s Own Autobiography: The Chapters from the North American Review
Curiously enough, reading it in context makes me realise it isn’t a statement of despair or disappointment (like I originally believed), but rather makes the point that while the base ideas don’t change and have been around for a long time, how they are combined and come together can lead to distinct new things! Just because a topic has been covered, doesn’t mean I can’t produce something in a different way or through a different lens that will look completely different in the end.
So I’ve decided to write the following for myself going into the new year (and for anyone else it might help):
If you’ve got an idea for something to build or write about and it’s been done before, that’s OK! Your version will be the only one created with your particular collective thoughts and experiences behind it. Maybe your version will suit certain people more, or will be more useful in a different context. Maybe yours will be higher quality! Even if it only benefits you, that’s a positive that makes it worth doing. As long as you get something out of the process or the end result, go for it! What have you got to lose?