Whatever your creative goal – be it to pen a Pulitzer prize winning novel, shoot an Oscar winning movie, or paint a masterpiece – it’s important to remember that you are constantly surrounded by outside influences. You read, you watch movies, and you examine art. Each of these mediums, with their wide variety of style and voice, influence your life and your creativity.
When pen meets paper, or fingers meet keyboard, you can sometimes struggle to decisively write something that you feel is original. And thus, you may often find yourself erasing and backspacing the stories you have planned to spin. Afraid to share your ideas with the world for fear someone will label you a fraud, claim you are copying others ideas and works.
It is highly important that you not let this fear of not reaching the unattainable “originality” deter you from putting your best food forward and trying to create meaningful or entertaining works. Where would the world be if everyone simply stopped trying because it had already been done before? So few things in this day and age are completely untouched. After all, originality is a farce.
Jim Jarmusch, an American film director, suggests you “steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: ‘It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.’”
Have you ever noticed how frequently you read something that strikes a chord with you, which resembles something you’ve already read or seen? This is because creativity is, most of the time, just a matter of reworking ideas and inserting your own genius into them. Many great artists have simply borrowed others ideas and created something new with them. Henry Ford has stated that he “simply assembled the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work.”
You have to embrace the reality that is the current creative world. Use the wealth of knowledge and the wealth of information that is available to your advantage. Take your ideas and trust that you have the power to turn them into something special. Don’t worry about infringing upon ideas that have already been used – there are a limited amount of ideas and an unlimited amount of ways to use and spin them.
Before I let you go, here are twenty inspiring quotes to get the ball rolling. After the quotes you will find an incredible video called “Everything is a Remix.” It was produced by Kirby Ferguson. If you have an hour to spare, I highly recommend watching it.
- “Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new after all.” – Abraham Lincoln
- “Every spoof gives more power to the original.” – Shepard Fairey
- “A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.” – T.S. Eliot
- “I’m being given a little bit of credit now as being a viable collage artist, which some people think is ridiculous. Like this guy who said, “Wait a minute: You had an art show where you just cut out pictures and then glued them back together?” And I said, “Yeah, that’s pretty much what it is.” There’s more to it than that. It’s about having the eye for detail, moving things from one environment and reassembling them into new environments….Everyone can do it, but not everyone can do it well.” – Robert Pollard
- “If you think a man draws the type of hands that you want to draw, steal ‘em. Take those hands.” – Jack Kirby
- “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” – T.S. Eliot
- “Some one may say of me, that I have here only made a nosegay of other men’s flowers, having furnished nothing of my own but the thread to tie them.” – Montaigne
- “All writing is in fact cut-ups. A collage of words read heard overheard. What else?” – William S. Burroughs
- “To spark my creativity…I often re-use pieces from my other works…basically collaging my own stuff…” – Nate Williams
- “I love art, I love being thrilled by art, and I love folding these thrills into my own practice. I love stealing….I absolutely believe my best work lies ahead of me, and lies in the work I’m absolutely on fire to steal from.” – Tom Hart
- “If you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many, it’s research.” – Wilson Mizner
- “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.” – Jean-Luc Godard
- “There is nothing new except what has been forgotten.” – Marie Antoinette
- “Only those with no memory insist on their originality.” – Coco Chanel
- “Every idea is a juxtaposition. That’s it. A juxtaposition of existing concepts.” – Steven Grant
- “Sometimes I think everything I draw is just a combination of all of the millions and millions of drawings I’ve seen.” – Dash Shaw
- “If you have one person you’re influenced by, everyone will say you’re the next whoever. But if you rip off a hundred people, everyone will say you’re so original!” – Gary Panter
- “Really the truth is just a plain picture. A plain picture of, let’s say, a tramp vomiting in the sewere. You know, and next door to the picture Mr. Rockefeller or Mr. C. W. Jones on the subway going to work. You know, any kind of picture. Just make a collage of pictures.” – Bob Dylan
- “Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.” – Chuck Palahniuk
- “All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
- “An original idea. That can’t be too hard. The library must be full of them.” – Stephen Fry