Friday, October 24, 2014

Steal & Push

As an artist your goal may be to create something unique. As a contrarian investor, you have to go against the crowd - and be right. As a scientist, you want to push the boundaries of human thought doing something no one has ever done before. In creative fields there is a big drive to depend first and foremost on yourself. You don't want to be sullied by others. You want to be an independent thinker.

Independence is not however the same thing as ignorance. Take the smartest person in the world and lock her in a room for a long enough period. Take an artist and close him off from the world. Take a scientist and remove the aggressive peer review - and you lose'Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that which it was torn.' T.S.Elliot

Austin Kleon has written an awesome one-sitting* book with 10 lessons about being creative. One comment is that nothing is original: 'The writer Jonathan Lethem has said that when people call something "original," nine out of ten times they just don't know the references or the original sources involved.' 


Trying to be original is something of a burden. It stops you from working because you constantly worry. It becomes about you and being judged as original rather than the quality of the work. It becomes about your ego rather than whether what you are doing is of value. I regularly talk about Bruce Lee's 'Absorb. Discard. Add' philosophy. I think if you think of yourself as part of the bigger group, and the creative stuff happens at the edge, you need to understand and have in your toolkit the knowledge, experience and flair of the rest of you. You being the group. You being everyone. You being everything.

Then you push the boundary. You make everything bigger. Originality doesn't have to separate you from the world.

*Often books say what they want to say quickly, then spend the rest of the time padding it out sufficiently to appear serious. 
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