I was looking through my drafts, thinking I had already written this post down. I hadn’t. It seems like I’ve had this fleeting little thought running in my head for so long, I assumed it already had been given shape with words, and then released somewhere in my many journals to roam freely.
And well. It is 5am right now, and I have been awake for hours dreading the morning ahead, and try as I might this thought just won’t leave me alone. And so, here it is. Please forgive me if I lose you along the way; these words, half-delirious as they are, are to not be taken very seriously.
I follow quite a lot of artists on Instagram and other social media sites, and eventually they all touch upon the theme of creativity. Some moan, in the captions of very pretty pictures of themselves in a summery dress, about how their ideas are being stolen; of how, oh poor me, my very original and trailblazing pose, color scheme, whatever, is now copied endlessly and thoughtlessly. Repeat for the next few photos, ad nauseum.
Please. Give me a break.
I not-so-secretly have the soul of a historian and the mind of a scientist, and I see that creativity is nothing more than taking someone else’s idea and making it your own. Even great artists, like Picasso and Michelangelo and Leonardo, poured over ancient books of the creators that came before them in search for ideas, of enlightenment.
And we, however Instagrammable we think our lives are, are no better than them.
Listen: Nothing is new. Every idea, every trope, every symbol has already been used in thousands and thousands of ways throughout the centuries. Every masterpiece is just a collection of the same shapes and lines and dots repeated over and over again. We, lovely human beings that we are, are as unoriginal as they come. And that is both our flaw and our gift.
What is new, and groundbreaking, and beautiful, really, is that everyone is just a little bit different: everybody sees the same lines but experiences them wholly different. The same bouquet of artfully thrown flowers can produce thousands of different unique works of art. You and I, we are our own different worlds, and try as we might, there are some things we will never see the same way.
Now, plagiarism is a real issue, rampant in today’s era of free digital content; I am not talking about that. I am not talking about the blatant tracing of someone’s work and passing it off as one’s own. That is an act of cowardice, despicable in its entirety. No; I speak of those who take clear inspiration from other, more established artists. Who create original takes on the pose someone became famous for. Telling them not to create twists on the same thing is disingenuous and a waste of energy and breath. I mean, really, can you really honestly be called the sole owner of the staring-out-the-window-with-your-legs-up-on-the-windowframe photo pose?
I will continue to be inspired by these artists. I will continue to create my own spins on the same overused tropes Instagram seems to be fed up with; sue me. I will have fun with it, and I will learn, and this way I will eventually come across my own style. And I dare those out there to also be shamelessly inspired: by a beautiful sunrise, or a particularly pretty picture of a bunch of flowers. I dare you to feed your creativity, your inner artist, with these little morsels of other people’s work. And I dare you to add your own style and your own energy to these overused tropes. Pose in front of a brightly colored wall as many times as you want; but do it your way.
Once you bemoan the death of creativity, it means 1), I am on the other side of the screen eye rolling so hard my face muscles hurt; and more importantly, 2), you have let your inner artist die of starvation.