I am sure that this is true in many disciplines, but one of the challenges of doing research in Bible and theology is that it seems like all the good stuff has already been said. Every now and then someone comes along with a truly unique idea or way of approaching an issue, and they usually end up being the people we study for the next few decades. The rest of us? Not so much.
How do you write something “new” on topics that people have been studying for thousands of years? And should that even be our primary focus?
Maybe the issue isn’t whether your writing/research is new in the sense that you’re saying something no one has ever said before, which would raise some interesting questions of its own. Maybe the kind of newness that we should pursue is that fact that you’re the one saying it.
In her advice to writers, Anne Lamott has this to say about the issue:
“Mark Twain said that Adam was the only man who, when he said a good thing, knew that nobody had said it before. Life is like a recycling center, where all the concerns and dramas of humankind get recycled back and forth across the universe. But what you have to offer is your own sensibility, maybe your own sense of humor or insider pathos or meaning. All of us can sing the same song, and there will still be four billion different renditions.” (Bird by Bird, 181)
Does your research offer anything “new”? It does, at the very least, because it’s your research, your writing, your perspective on whatever it is you are studying. That’s never been done before. Indeed, it can’t have been done before, because no one can do that except you.
[This is part of our Back to School: Tips from the Writers Guild series, focusing on things we can learn from professional authors about what it takes to thrive as a student in today's world.]