It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation. – Herman Melville
I had the unique opportunity to put it there myself as we were dedicating our new office space. While many of my co-workers were busy writing scripture all over the floor, I made my way quietly into the space I knew would be mine (while I am there at least) and chose this to be the inspiration for my time there.
When I went to find an image to go along with it I shouldn’t have been surprised by how similar they all were. I searched originality, original, unique….all the same cookie cutter business graphics kept popping up. I was hoping for a picture of a little mis-matched girl with big glasses and messy hair – that’s what original brings to my mind. Maybe a throw back to Audrey or Marilyn driving down a winding road in a convertible wearing a head scraf, sunglasses and a big smile – they were unique. I did find this little gem, though. I think it proves the point well.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t believe I’m original and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. It’s really impossible at this stage in the game. Do I think my life is unique to me and the choices I make? Absolutely. Do I believe I have something unique to share about how my eyes and mind perceive the world? Yes I do. But that isn’t original, that’s just my working definition of originality. Nothing’s original, but applying, stealing and being inspired by everything that came before you – that’s originality.
A favorite quick read of mine is “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon. I like to pull it out from time to time just as a reminder that whatever I’m doing on my creative path is okay. A writer and an artist, Austin filled this little book with visual manifestos of why it’s okay to, “…embrace influence, collect ideas, and remix and re-imagine to discover your own path.” Nothing’s original, so stop trying to create something no one else ever has. Just start creating things in a WAY that no one else has. All that time I spend on Pinterest feasting on ideas and inspiration? It’s a perfect way to spend a morning and I’m totally going to start counting it as creative time. Sure, the question is whether or not I will every do anything with the thousands of ideas and projects there waiting for me but I’d like to believe that I will.
When I do, I hope I can keep reminding myself of this sentiment and keep it rooted in originality.