You’re Not So Original

The Deering Binder - carefully studied and imitated by all binder manufacturers. - via Boston Library Flickr Images

The Deering Binder – carefully studied and imitated by all binder manufacturers. – via Boston Library Flickr Images

In my teens I was fortunate to travel half way around the world as part of a team on two representative basketball trips. These trips involved a month of training and playing games in the US and Asia. At the conclusion of our basketball commitments we spent a week in a tropical holiday destination.  On the first trip we spent a week in Penang, Malaysia.  It wasn’t my first trip to Asia, but it was definitely my first with a group of teenagers! Whilst we were touring and playing we had limited opportunities to shop or explore the places we visited, so we were determined to make up for it in the last week.

We were delighted by the myriad of stalls filled with various goods and wares, everything from clothing and footwear to ornaments and jewellery. I cannot remember one item I bought, nor any of my teammates during our sprees, but what I do recall is the cajoling by the vendor to gain our attention and sell their goods. Our favourite vendor catchphrase being “come and get your genuine imitation”!

Which brings me to teaching.

Not that long ago I was set the task of developing an art course for the year, I grimaced and acknowledged “not my strong point” and a colleague responded “but you design really creative art projects”. I replied to the effect of, “its all smoke and mirrors! I am really good at finding something and manipulating it to fit our purposes”.

This is where we reside, in a world of remix, repurpose and redesign! Nothing is truly original, we all gather and gain inspiration from others and the more inspiration we immerse ourselves in the greater our ability to be creative. You only have to spend a short time on the internet to see multiple parodies, memes and remixes for proof or our participatory culture.

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.” – Steve Jobs

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So we need to consume to be creative and herein lies our responsibility to share what we produce (and give credit) so that others can take what we have made and build upon it.

Part of the hesitation for some is the belief that they are not as creative, skilled or talented as others.  The more we acknowledge how much we “steal” and “adapt”, the more confidence others may grow in knowing that the only skill required is a keen prowess for imitation!

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