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Originality: Own Your Influences

Wednesday 7 September 2022 - Filed under Default

One of the hard challenges for a creative person is overcoming doubt about originality, thinking Has this been done before? Isn’t this just like so and so? Am I ripping off my heroes?

Everywhere we look, we find high-quality content which feels like magic conjured by great talents for us to enjoy. We may wonder how they did it, despair that our work will never compare, and ultimately be frozen in apathy.

But that’s not really how creatives work and certainly paralysis shouldn’t be the result. Every artist was once a child trying to make sense of the world. They gathered influences and along the way time and practice transformed their favorites into a personal vocabulary.

As for the paralysis, we’ve all heard “there’s nothing new under the sun” but until you see it for yourself it doesn’t feel like a hard truth. Eddie Van Halen was one of a kind, wasn’t he? I’m not that original so like what’s the point? Not to take away from the great artists but originality is more standing on the shoulders of giants than lightning bolts of genius.

Just think of a favorite artist and follow the chain. Who were their influences? Watch interviews and read bios. Who were their influences’ influences? And so on…

This is not to knock the greats down, but to lift us mortals up to a playful and productive place. Your faves had influences and created great stuff and so can you.

P.S. This post was motivated by Joni Mitchell, Jewel, Tori Amos, Weather Report, and Squarepusher.

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2022-09-07  »  David Sterry