“Originality is nothing but judicious imitation.” – Voltaire
The initial reaction to this quote is one of denial. Of course we can be original without imitating others! But can we really? Akin to the age old question of “what came first, the chicken or the egg?” the Theory of Originality questions the ability to ever have a thought that isn’t inspired by something else.
So faced with the daunting realization that everything we create, has already been created before, how do we stay as “original” as we can?
1. Don’t be afraid that it’s already been done before.
“Originality does not consist in saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you think yourself.” – James Stephens
Recognize that anything you do will have been done before. And don’t let it scare you. While our ideas may all be inspired our opinions will always be uniquely our own. As long as what you’re creating is being created from your own perspective it will be original and authentic.
2. Don’t be afraid to pull from what has already been done before.
“Good artists copy, great artists steal.” – Pablo Picasso
If our ideas are already inspired than don’t be afraid to pull from those sources of inspiration. Never copy, but do your research. See how your idea has been done before. See what worked and what didn’t. Look at works that are completely unrelated, and incorporate aesthetics that you love about them into your own pieces.
3. Don’t be afraid to be different than the works which inspired you.
“Originality is the art of concealing your sources.” – Benjamin Franklin
While an idea may not be original, it’s presentation can be. So recognize your inspirations, pull from your inspirations, but don’t get boxed within them. Hiding what inspired so it is unrecognizable within your own unique vision is the key to actual originality.