Originality vs Imitation
I’m back from vacation in Joshua Tree, CA where Allison and I spent 10 days in a remote airbnb and hiking during a brutal heat wave. Feeling more refreshed than I thought I’d feel upon return. Not dreading work tomorrow morning, which is a gift in itself. Life continues. It is bittersweet resigning the temporary freedom of a desert vacation. Thankfully I did gain some personal insight and the grind of life, at this moment, doesn’t seem like such a grind, but that will probably change once I clock in at work tomorrow morning.
Originality vs Imitation
Here are some thoughts on originality and creativity largely inspired by Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art and applied in mind to observations of peers and my own faulty impulses.
Originality is always influenced. Influence is as old as consiousness - think of apes sheltered in caves inching in progress towards civilization. It was always a process of learning for us even down to the painting of mammoths on cave walls. The dude that painted it first wasn’t the best, I doubt that was a concept for quite some time. That was when imitation was the purest - before the “I” of ones ego could even consider shaping. Jump to now and art is as ubiquitous as smart phones and just about everyone is creating something - often unconsciously driven by the desire to climb a hierarchy. We live in a sublime age of excess and stimulation. Sink or swim or both.
A work of art that stands on its own is a synthesis of influences through the artists own point of view. If you have a social media account then you are a content creator and you’re most likely not on Meta’s payroll. In an era where everyone is a “creative” or “content creator” - most are unoriginal in the sense that they are clearly influenced and either trying to seem like one of God’s special ones or they are totally unaware and just want to fit in - nothing wrong with that.
What is wrong is the ones who are actively trying to ascend social ladders and have actually obtained some kind of power or “clout”. I feel less offended by a guy I know who eats, sleeps and breathes the influencer grind. He knows he’s shallow and I find it funny in a vague Harmony Korine kind of headspace. We need Gigachads getting laid and diving with sharks.
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My problem is with two subtypes - the artsy libtard (more and more harmless with each glorious sunrise) and the post-liberal-sort-of-talented-sort-of-funny-hipster.
The Artsy Libtard - Went to art school and acquired some kind of generic skill in the arts. Fancies themself an activist, but really just wants a career or some kind of attention or “validation”. Most are not so insidious as to have a GoFundMe constantly on the up, but there are a lot of those. Usually uses some sort of qualifier about gender or race before even speaking their own name. Often well to do. Sad when they aren’t. Generally harmless these days, but there is a subconscious power game at work here.
The Post-Libtard Too Cool for it Guy - They’re basically factory farming this sort. Listens to Redscare/other hip podcasts to learn opinions. Always looking for the next trend, even religion, God help them. This kind is very similar the the Artsy Libtard, but reeks of fake cool (shoutout Hendrix), makes edgy jokes sometimes and pretends that they didn’t scold you for not wearing a mask in 2020. Uses works of art, bands, clothing, books, even religion as a one up on everyone else. Everyone knows someone like this - a pretentious twat.
Artsy Libtard > Fake Cool.
Back to Originality - I’m running out of steam so here’s some notes:
Taking influence is a form of respect and admiration. Copying is cheap after an artist’s learning period. Copying is extremely helpful and unavoidable in the beginning. Copying is fun, but not noble.
Copycats can be their own oddity and worth your time, but you don’t want to be a copycat. 99.99% of all music is a ripoff or heavily influenced. Music is somehow less egregious to copy, but if someone is ripping off a GOAT band you’ll probably listen to the original over the copy.
Being totally original is alien. Sometimes cool, sometimes retarded. Genuine retardation usually circles back to being cool - otherwise known as Braindead Geniuses. Example: NYHC.
Dr. Pepper will always taste better than Dr. Thunder no matter how close the copy is. Brand recognition is probably part of it, but also it’s the original 23 flavors which Dr. Pepper owns the formula for. Why would I buy your clone when I can spend a dollar more and get a 2liter of the original? Because you advertised it to me? People hate being advertised to. Pibb Xtra> Dr.Pepper> Dr. Thunder.
If you find yourself comparing your work to a work of art you admire and this makes you loose steam, then you’re fucking up. I see this a lot and these people constantly switch styles/ forms. There’s nothing wrong with variety in your game, but take it serious or else it’s probably not worth anyones time.
Soul over skill but skill is good too.
Late night jetlag post. Probably speaking over my station.
Thanks to Zac for putting me on to the War of Art which spawned these thoughts and many more.
“The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art