As someone who likes to pick up words and phrases from others and then riff on them in my writing, I’ve always struggled with the notion of originality. That’s what artists are supposed to be, after all. Original. Unto themselves. Independent visionaries. Pure.
So sometimes I’ve felt like a fraud. Fortunately, as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that taking from others and building it into something of my own is the way creativity works. It’s not plagiarism, but more akin to playing in a jazz band, picking up others’ melodies, motifs, aesthetics, etc., and playing along with them, then breaking out into my own solo.
This is how I construct many of my stories. Now I’m unabashedly comfortable with such a process. That’s why I want to share this TED talk, “Embracing the Remix,” by Kirby Ferguson.
Pablo Picasso said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Ferguson breaks down this idea even further to explain that the three key elements of creativity—copy, transform, and combine—are the building blocks of all original ideas.