“What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.” — Austin Kleon, New York Times Bestseller, Steal Like An Artist.
In today’s blog, I’d like to discuss HOW to unleash your creativity, build on ideas, and create something new, fresh and authentic.
We’re all influenced by what we see, hear, and feel; our past conditioning, education, travels, relationships, what we read, dream, eat, and the conversations we have. This is not about being a copycat or plagiarism but by being inspired and inspiring others.
The history of humankind with all its inventions and innovations in art and in science have happened as a result of contagious ideas spreading and manifesting; constantly being reshaped, and repurposed in perfect timing to match our awareness on an individual and global level.
So while “nothing is original” we can take existing ideas and use them in new and creative ways to be authentic, leaving our mark on the world, and creating the opportunity for our work to be a source of inspiration for others.
“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. 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.” [MovieMaker Magazine #53 – Winter, January 22, 2004 ]”
Most creatives do this subconsciously. We naturally take what “speaks directly to our soul”, what we’re interested in, what stands out for us and use it as a source of inspiration, a starting point to create something that is “authentic” for us. We put our stamp of originality on it.
My 13-year-old daughter loves art and I am learning so much about creativity as I watch her develop hers. She scours the internet for pictures that capture her attention and recreates them. Sometimes they look exactly like the first artwork and other times she has changed something, a medium, colour or added a new element.
Once she copied a Picasso painting and I couldn’t tell the difference between hers or the original. I put it up on Facebook and not many could pick the original. Hilarious. (That I have a Picasso in the making).
This is her process of discovery. Of learning. Of practising. Of finding herself and her authenticity.
Our process often starts in childhood with our love of reading and the power of words to move us. Then we may dabble with writing, seriously or not, often feeling like our words are cliched and that we’re frauds. But we’re not. We’re in discovery mode too and need to trust in the process.
I encourage you to read widely, learn how to write (there are so many wonderful books and courses out there) and join writer’s groups or at least have a brainstorming buddy. I meet with a wonderful writer monthly and while we started off as accountability buddies we share information, read each other’s work and discuss ideas. I find this so valuable. But nothing beats writing and learning from experience.
My lecturer at Uni once said when discussing how to find your voice as a writer, “Find a piece of writing you like and copy it by hand.” The idea is that the style or tone or pace or whatever it is about that piece of writing will be implanted into your psyche and you can draw from that; use it as inspiration, practise writing and evolve into your own style.
The notion that there are no new original ideas is provocative. Do you believe this? I’d love to know what you think. Leave a Comment below and let’s discuss this…
I love what Elizabeth Gilbert says about ideas in her book, Big Magic. She says,
Ideas are out there people, floating around the “ether” waiting for the right time in history and the right person to capture it, to work with what they know, to reshape and mould it into something new.
Some of the greatest inventions in history are a result of people sharing ideas, letting others build on them. Stephen Johnson who wrote, Where good ideas come from says that, “Ideas and innovation thrive where ideas are free to flow from mind to mind and are used and reused and remixed in interesting and surprising ways.”
Most innovative people are building on top of other people’s ideas. We all know that “two heads are better than one.” That’s why in Self-Help circles and in business, MASTERMINDS are so popular and so successful. Because it’s the synergy of the group in discussing ideas, that new and exciting ideas emerge. Sprouted from the seeds of past ideas, our contributions bloom into something wonderful.
In literature, a trope is a common plot convention, element or theme.
You only have to look at Romance Writing to see that readers want and expect a particular plot and they can get very angry if the author deviates. So while every book is essentially the same, they have different characters, and settings and satisfy the conventions of that genre.
The same can be said of plots in literature. Christopher Booker says that there are seven basic plot lines in storytelling.
The Jericho Writers have a great article on their website which shows how you can make each one work for you. Your story may be more complex with sub-plots but essentially every story has been done before. And that’s not a bad thing. This is an example of how to use what’s out there to your benefit.
As authors, we use the fact that our book is similar to another book as an advantage. When we pitch to publishers or write a book description, we use comparative texts to explain the nature of our book. Because people use what they know as a starting point of understanding.
Many self-help authors write about the same thing but their message is conveyed in a different way. We can connect with our audience, readers, tribe etc in a way that resonates with them.
It is freeing when you understand that you can take something already “out there”, transform it and make it your own because that’s what creativity is – being inspired by an idea and creating something that didn’t exist before.
Some people may think this is a grey area, especially when discussing Intellectual Property and copyright. It’s never OK to steal other people’s work. It’s easier to find plagiarism in words but music has proven to be more difficult to differentiate at times. And Fashion, well, trends are nothing but copies and are often welcomed.
Don’t force it though, be yourself, express yourself in your way with your voice and style otherwise it will appear inauthentic and you won’t feel passionate to continue in that vein of writing or art or whatever your passion is.
How can we get inspired and unleash our creativity? How can we capture those ideas floating around the ether?
Firstly, get comfortable that nothing is original and that it’s ok to use what’s out there as a starting point. Be open. Curious. Open your mind and your heart and magic will happen.
As Wayne Dyer said in his book, Living the Wisdom of the Tao, we are not doing, we are being done to. Trust in the universe and that ideas will come to you and that you will have the knowledge and wisdom to let these ideas flow to you and through you.
This is true inspiration.
In the chaos of life and comparing ourselves to others we sometimes forget who we are, what we want to leave as a gift or legacy to the world, our message. Get back to your centre.
Have fun and enjoy the process!
Plan an Artist’s date, put it in your diary, let family members know,
Visit places of beauty and inspiration. What may be interesting for some may not be for others. Some people like visiting cemeteries, others climbing mountains. What is beautiful and inspiring to you?
Natalie Goldberg in, Writing Down the Bones says that “Writers live twice.” They go about life like everyone else, they cross the street but then they sit down and go over how they crossed the street, how they jumped the puddle, reliving it and going over it a second time, looking at the details.” I love this because it’s so true.
The more you practise writing, the better you will get, the more memories you will unlock and the more confident you will feel – and the more clarity you will get around what you want to write.
IT’S A PROCESS.
ENJOY THE PROCESS.
IF YOU WANT A LITTLE MORE MOTIVATION DOWNLOAD MY FREE EBOOK,
20 WAYS TO UNLEASH YOUR CREATIVITY AND START WRITING
The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron
Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
Steal like an artist: 10 things nobody told you about being creative
Art is Theft – Pablo Picasso
Images from Pixabay and Unsplash