Originality is a myth

Thu, 28/01/2016 - 00:00

Don’t fool yourself, nothing is original. Not even this article. Of course, I’m definitely not the first person to have said this.

“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

  • Pablo Picasso

“Only those with no memory insist on their originality”

  • Coco Chanel

“Originality is nothing but judicious imitation. The most original writers borrowed from one another.”

  • Voltaire

Believing you’re original is a special kind of arrogance

You think nobody has thought of a concept like that before? You think no one, throughout history, has had a similar thought? You honestly believe that your brain works in such a brilliant way that no person has taken parallel mental steps and reached a like-minded conclusion?

Sure, there’s a chance that no one has put it in that particular way before. No one has painted that particular portrait. No one has strung those exact words into that exact same sentence. But that doesn’t make it original.

You’ve seen many portraits before and you’ve read more sentences than you could possibly remember. You’ve been influenced by every single one of these. You are a product of all the information and art you’ve consumed.

We’re all referencing something

There is a reference point to every piece of content. There is a reference point to every design. There is a reference point to every argument. Call it “inspiration” if that makes you feel better, but it’s still there. You’ve been influenced. Something or someone has made you think this way, feel this way and act this way.

Every time we read a book, use a source, see a picture, enjoy a movie or buy into an ad campaign, it influences us.

But don’t be discouraged

So, you’re not the unique little snowflake you thought you were. Your work doesn’t exist in a universe of its own. That doesn’t matter. Originality doesn’t matter.

It’s about making it your own.

You can manipulate the angle. You can represent the subject in different lighting. You can say it better, sing it louder, market it harder. And that’s what counts.

Instead of denying your source and claiming originality, rather draw from many reference points (again, call it “inspiration” if you prefer). Instead of striving for originality, let yourself be influenced more.

At the end of the day

It’s about entertainment, it’s about engagement, it’s about getting the meaning across. Creativity is important. Communication is important. Quality is important. Originality, on the other hand, is a myth we should stop putting so much faith in.

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