At a Karaoke bar, you choose your favourite song and sing over a backing track awkwardly.
You might be a little tipsy, you might feel shy, and you might be joined by raucous friends.
As you relax, you find the words flow better, and your voice glides over the melody.
Eventually, you might start to get creative, adding more of your own flavour to the tune.
The song becomes your own.
The parallel that Karaoke has with making art is that even the very best creative work is rarely, if ever, truly original.
Karaoke is taking something that works (i.e. popular music in this case) and making it our own.
As Austin Kleon has noted, ‘great artists steal’.
Especially when you are getting started with a new artistic style or product, you will inevitably be taking inspiration, whether consciously or not, from art that has come before.
There is no shame in this. Every form of creative output has a backlog of borrowed ideas.
Take what has already worked, but especially borrow what has clicked with you.
Steal ideas from writers you love to read, practice your favourite songs on your guitar, paint in the style of the artists that moved you.
Then, with regular practice and an accumulation of experience, you will start to hone a craft that takes on its own form.
“Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find your self.” ― Austin Kleon
There is no need to re-invent something from scratch, especially if it has not been proven to work.
People are diverse and interesting, yet we all respond similarly to similar things.
When we become aware of what things leave an impression on others, but especially ourselves, we can apply it to our own work and avoid doing things that fall flat.
I copied ideas and elements from the illustrators I loved all the time when I first started out. If something jumped out at me, I’d figure out a way to use it in my own work.
It was one of the most important phases in the development of my own style.
Borrowing from — and emulating others — continues to be important in coming up with new ideas, and allowing my own work to evolve.
I also look at what others are doing successfully to build a business, and I apply it to my own if they make sense to me.
Other people’s ideas are the building blocks to your own form of mastery.
Using another example, you might study the work of several photographers that you are drawn to as you develop your own aesthetic, borrowing various lighting and compositional ideas.
Eventually you ‘invent’ a new form of photographical composition that mixes elements from other photographers, adding an extra layer through the choices you make and the places you go.
No one else can connect ideas the same way you can because we all experience the world very differently.
Though ideas, melodies, or brush strokes can be copied, it is our individuality that makes originality possible.
When we connect ideas that impact us, we have the potential to impact others.