The problem is sitting down to write and thinking I have nothing original to say. You start a blog and a few weeks later you forget about it. Someone told you that original thought is a prerequisite for creative work.
It’s a lie.
The authors you read copied ideas. The artwork you see is heavily borrowed. The music you listen to is widely sampled.
You just don’t know it because you don’t recognize original references to the works you cherish by others.
Creatives give themselves permission to
collect steal good ideas from others and mash them together to produce something that looks original.
The book Steal like an Artist by Austin Kleon goes deep into this concept.
There is nothing new under the sun
— Ecclesiastes 1:9.
I wasn’t taught to take good ideas and try to re-mix them in school. We hear so much about the evils of plagiarism in primary school that we’re afraid to take ideas from others and mix them with our own.
Straight plagiarism is poor taste. It’s adding nothing and is equivalent to identity theft. However — if you mesh together 5 different ideas from others, it creates something new.
This even works genetically. You’re not original. You are branched genetically off your mom, dad, and your ancestors.
Copy work is directly copying written material from other authors to internalize their style.
Do you like the style of Rudyard Kipling and want it to rub off on you? Pick up his book and start copying it chapter by chapter.
That’s exactly what Jack London did. He spent days doing copy work with Kipling’s material.
Benjamin Franklin also did copy work to improve his writing.
…I met with an odd volume of the “Spectator.” I had never before seen any of them. I bought it, read it over, and was much delighted with it.
I thought the writing excellent, and wished, if possible, to imitate it. With this view I took some of the papers, and making short hints of the sentiment in each sentence, laid them by a few days, and then, without looking at the book, tried to complete the papers again, by expressing each hinted sentiment at length, and as fully as it had been expressed before, in any suitable words that should come to hand. Then I compared my “ Spectator” with the original, discovered some of my faults, and corrected them.
— Benjamin Franklin
I took a copywriting course a few years ago as I thought it might be a good career switch out of Oil and Gas.
The entire course was copy work. I spent hours and hours copying copywriters and their ads in the hopes that their style rubs off on me.
If you rip off [the style of] a hundred people, everyone will say you’re so original!
— Gary Panter
Hunter Thompson also used copywork and copied Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls and Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby to find his style.
The Beatles started off as a band playing cover songs.
I emulated Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lew, Elvis. We all did.
— Paul McCartney
Much of modern music is copied.
Jimi Hendrix added his own style to it and made it so good that it’s what you know.
Many of these artists sold millions of albums. They gave themselves permission to take good ideas and mix them with their own style. They aren’t pure originals and sampled others heavily.
Video Game Music
There are a ton of sampled beats and cadences in video game music.
Vincent Van Gogh applied copy work to painting by copying the works of his favorite artists including Millet and Delacroix.
Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing
— Salvador Dali
Tech is full of theft. Apple stole the idea of a GUI interface from Xerox.
Xerox had no idea it was sitting on a goldmine. Apple did.
USPS existed before Fedex was started.
MP3 players existed before the iPod showed up.
Myspace ruled before Facebook took over.
The creatives you worship gave themselves permission to learn from the creatives they liked. They stole a bunch of good ideas and remixed them.
Don’t sell yourself short by assuming you need pure originality. Your heroes didn’t. Go out, take ideas, mix them, and create!