I had no idea before I read Austin Kleon, but creativity is rarely done in a vacuum.
It involves stealing.
And I have found out, I love to steal.
You steal ideas and filter them all through your personality and voice.
You make them your own.
“Nobody is born with a style or a voice. We don’t come out of the womb knowing who we are. In the beginning, we learn by pretending to be our heroes. We learn by copying. We’re talking about practice here, not plagiarism—plagiarism is trying to pass someone else’s work off as your own. Copying is about reverse-engineering. It’s like a mechanic taking apart a car to see how it works. We learn to write by copying down the alphabet. Musicians learn to play by practicing scales. Painters learn to paint by reproducing masterpieces.”
- How many things did you trace in school?
- How many drawings did you copy in art class?
- How many songs did you learn the lyrics by heart?
- How many stories did you write, with the first paragraph stolen from Hemingway?
- How proud were you the first time you played Ode To Joy from Beethoven without looking at the sheet music?
I know I was pretty proud.
The writer Wilson Mizner said if you copy from one author, it’s plagiarism, but if you copy from many, it’s research. I once heard the cartoonist Gary Panter say, “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!”