When you're working on something new, maybe an app, game, business idea, podcast, open source library, or other creative endeavor, there's a predicable moment that occurs. Over drinks or in an email, a well-meaning friend mentions something they saw or read about recently. They ask gently, "Isn't this pretty similar to what you're working on?"
You put on a brave face, but your heart sinks and you feel deflated. You critically examine your idea doppelgänger and confirm that they are indeed doing something very similar. You note how they seem further along and have solved a few problems that had you stumped. You take a deep breath as a wave of discouragement passes over you. "Why am I pouring so much time into this?" Belief in originality had fed your confidence.
Those are difficult moments, but don't let them derail what you set out to create.
Originality isn't what sets your idea apart. You are.
You have your own motivations and priorities. You have past experiences that shape your work, and dreams and values that shape its future. You and your crew bring unique skills and passionate beliefs to the project. Even though someone else is attempting to solve the same problem or wants to fill the same gap, the end result will not be the same.
Imagine a band recording its first album. Months of practice and sparsely attended shows have led to this moment. Then, they open iTunes and see a new artist feature on another guitar-driven four-piece writing uptempo songs about relationships. They're even from the same part of the country.
Can you imagine the band canceling their studio time? "Sorry, we thought we were on to something here, but it turns out someone else had the same idea."
Of course not, because within artistic pursuits, we understand that unique, worthwhile, and significant expressions can sprout from the same ingredients and constraints. I recently spent a day with a massive, inspiring book on modern architecture from around the world. What struck me was the incredible variety. Much like writers with words and artists with paint, pencils, or Illustrator, architects continually push the boundaries of what's possible, despite beginning with the same materials and framework. Cooking, photography, poetry, and yes, apps and sites, are all similar in that regard.
The competition is between you and unfinished, not someone else's similar project. There's only one edition of what you're creating.
There is room in this world for you and your idea. There is room for another band, book, photograph, movie, painting, building, app, game, podcast, and website.
Believe in it, see it through, and share it with the rest of us.