There must be a million love songs that have been written during our lifetime. The majority have the same theme – either desperate heartbreak or a profession of undying love. There’s a saying that everything has already been said and done; that nothing is new in this world. If that’s the case, why do we bother saying or doing anything? What’s the point of merely repeating something that someone else has already said or replicating something that’s already been done?
The point is that you’re different from everyone else. When you do something, you bring your own twist to it. A love song by Britney Spears and another by Frank Ocean may have the same idea behind them both but if they’re written based on each of their own personal experiences and thoughts, they’ve already created something different. They’ve created something that hasn’t been done before. If you can relate to a situation in an authentic way and express your thoughts about it, you create a new slant on something that already exists. This goes for anything you do.
Since everything has already been said and done, why not look at everything that exists as a source of inspiration to create something new? When someone is taught how to paint, they’re often asked to copy their favourite artists. Essentially, you copy an existing style and understand how they do what they do. When you figure out their technique, you can change it and make it your own.
Paul Jarvis talks about this idea in his book Everything I Know. He’s a web designer and talks about how he learned to code. He would literally copy sites that he liked. Once he learned how to code things he liked from one site, he would move onto another, and another, and so, until he had really understood details from a number of different techniques that he could use to create something original.
Austin Kleon also talks about this in Steal Like An Artist. He talks about the difference between good theft and bad theft. Essentially, good theft is stealing from many, transforming their art through your creation and honoring their work by crediting them. Nothing unique and valuable can be created in isolation.
The next time you’re stuck sitting at your computer, wishing that something insanely creative is going to jump out of the screen and smack you across the head, take a walk. Get yourself into a different environment. Call a friend. Wander through a bookstore. Inspiration to create can be found absolutely everywhere and the more you see and experience, the more you can create something absolutely amazing.