Heard this old phrase again the other day: Good artists copy, great artists steal.

I’d like to think that originality is more prevalent in our world than imitation, as we associate originality with greatness. More so, the truth seems to be that imitation leads to greater feats than originality.

It’s much harder to go from 0 to 1 than from 1 to 2. But each iteration past 1 is often an improvement, a step towards progress.  However, It takes inspiration to do either of those. A stimulus that drives you to act.

There’s an inspiration threshold to meet before any creation happens. The stimulus to create must be strong enough to facilitate any sort of originality or imitation. Thoughts or ideas are only dreams until acted upon, they remain at 0 inside your head and manifest into 1 or 2 once you’ve moved to create.

So, inspiration is a predecessor to action. Whether that action is an imitation or an originality depends on the stimulus for inspiration. Again, it takes quite the mental feat to create something original. Actually, I’d be hardpressed to point towards any pure originality as inspiration derives from existing ideas, thoughts, and creations.

Imitation is an end result, a product of inspiration that has met it’s acting potential. The question more interesting to me is where’s the line between imitation and originality? Does originality exist?

If inspiration comes from stimuli in our environment and is channeled through the creative centers of our brain then perhaps the wiring of our neurons is what creates originality. No one will have the same processing of stimulus as anyone else and thus, perhaps your unique perceptions then form an “original inspiration” we’ll call it, required to create something truly original.

Yet, if the end result still reflects some of the external stimuli taken in to process an “original inspiration” then are we still left with an imitation or something brand new?

Now I’m not sure if inspiration can produce anything but imitation. I can take everything I’ve ever learned, seen, or done myself, mix it all in a big pot (my brain), produce something “new” and it would still be an imitation of all those ingredients rearranged into another new ingredient. An imitation of all my previous experiences, thoughts, ideas and actions.

Maybe originality is an asymptote of our creative potential. Yes, we are all capable of producing something truly unique and special, something only you could have created. But, the factors and variables required to produce that all draw from previous inspirations. Inspirations that we can only form into new imitations.

Let me know where I’m wrong.

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