One Never Designs or Creates in a Bubble – Unique Creativity, Plagurism, Imitation or Downright Stealing?

May 10, 2012

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An intriguing Facebook post by the lovely Donna Druchunas, fabulous knit designer, led me here, to write this post.  🙂  She shared her thoughts on the creative process and the myth of originality.  Her words are succinct & mirrored much of my own thoughts on the subject over years…

As a child & teen, I would get miffed if I thought anyone was “copying” me in any fashion.  I wanted to be unique and wanted my own “things” to be my “own”.  Goodness, it’s embarrassing to think back to that time, much less admit it to you & the world.  LOL  Over the years, as I’ve aged & watched my 4 children grow into young adults (gulp!) & teens, the truth of “nothing new under the sun” continues to echo in my consciousness.

Donna also shared a link to a blog post .  It related part of a letter written my Mark Twain to Helen Keller in 1903.  It fascinated it me so much, I had to read the letter in its’ entirety.  (I love, don’t you?)  Apparently, Helen Keller was accused of plagiarism & Twain had a few thoughts on the subject… (The emphasis is mine..)

“Oh, dear me, how unspeakably funny and owlishly idiotic and grotesque was that “plagiarism” farce! As if there was much of anything in any human utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism! The kernel, the soul—let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances—is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily used by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral calibre and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing. When a great orator makes a great speech you are listening to ten centuries and ten thousand men—but we call it his speech, and really some exceedingly small portion of it is his. But not enough to signify. It is merely a Waterloo. It is Wellington’s battle, in some degree, and we call it his; but there are others that contributed. It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph, or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a photograph, or a telephone or any other important thing—and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others. He added his little mite—that is all he did. These object lessons should teach us that ninety-nine parts of all things that proceed from the intellect are plagiarisms, pure and simple; and the lesson ought to make us modest. But nothing can do that. “

This is so true!  We are, who we are, because of billions of other influences, history, genetics, etc…to think we have complete original thought or intent is plain silly…Are there great minds of science who deserve credit for their work?  Or artists?  Yes!  Absolutely!  But, we do not create, invent or live in a bubble…our minds are easily influenced, whether we like it or not.  🙂  While we create, we cannot create out of nothing.  We must have “something” as a starting point, a pencil to sketch with, clay to shape into pots or writing utensils to write something down, mathmatical equations to decipher or understand complex science.  We cannot sing without our voice & we certainly can do nothing without our mind – which of course, something we all must begin with.  🙂

It reminds me of Derren Brown, a man with very interesting talents.  Several years ago, I stumbled upon some clips of his show, “Mind Control” on YouTube.  While these particular episodes are about advertising & subliminal persuasion, it rings true in all of life.  We are persuaded by lots of things & never realize it.  Ooh, that’s kinda scary!  But, it also explains other parts of life that make it so interesting!  🙂  Such as:

How birds of a feather, flock together

Meeting someone new, but they are familiar & it seems you’ve known them forever

Serendipitously arriving upon the perfect solution OR the perfect house – The perfect fill-in-the-blank

Designing the perfect “thing”, only to flip a page in a magazine or surf the web & find your perfect thing already done by some else

I’ve posted both clips below…watch’em!!

Click here to see another episode Derren Brown did in the US.

So, what do you think?  Have you gotten upset when it seemed someone copied or stole your work?


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