Is It Weird That We Crave Novelty?

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Oh TV, you're so comfortingly numbing. Pivture by Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr Creative Commons
Oh TV, you’re so comfortingly numbing.
Picture by Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr Creative Commons

Do you ever wonder if our craving for the novel, the thing that drives us to create and seek out new experiences, might be the most unnatural feeling a human can have?

Don’t get me wrong, I love new things. I love to read new books, hear new music, see new TV shows. I hardly ever re-watch films any more.

But when I was a kid I would watch the same films and shows over and over again. I’d re-read my favourite books. I’d listen to the same damn songs until it drove those around me nuts. Watch how any kid behaves and you’ll see endless repetition.

I’m the same when I’m suffering from depression. Instead of watching new, challenging TV and comics I’ll sink into something that’s repetitive and formulaic, preferably with characters I already know and love. I want sameness, because it’s comforting and easy.

Then look at the media most people consume. Most readers, given half a chance, will stick with the characters, authors and genres they know. It’s part of why there are so many long ongoing series – this is what sells. Sure, innovative work wins the prizes, but repetitive work, given just enough newness to sell it again, makes big bucks.

I love finding new things. I love that we, as humanity, are constantly innovating and adding to what’s out there.

But I should at least acknowledge that the readers I’m trying to reach, and parts of my own brain I’m trying to keep happy, mostly want the same story on loop seventy-three times.

Because that’s a huge part of being human too.

If you want the comfort of reading more of my words, combined with the novelty of a free book, you can get From a Foreign Shore, a collection of historical and alternate history stories, free all this week as an ebook from Amazon.

 

(Thanks to Charlotte Bond and David Tallerman for afternoon beers and an intriguing conversation that inspired this post.)

2 thoughts on “Is It Weird That We Crave Novelty?”

  1. I certainly preferred repetition when I was little. But now that I’m older I want a carefully calibrated blend of familiar and novel.

    1. I think that careful blend is what I enjoy too, with the amount of originality varying with my mood. Robert Kirkman once commented that the way to get readers to read something original is to also make it familiar in other ways, and I think that generally holds true.

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