Don't you love getting together with a friend to talk about something? I know that I do. The give and take, the back and forth - I learn so much about the topic and my friend too. My thoughts and ideas are sharpened and honed. You know, a little more thoughtfully than, "that's stupid you crazy woman!"
That's what inspired me to start a new series here - "talking about creativity". Every so often I'll sit down, whether in person or by email, and discuss some aspect of art-making or creativity with one of my bloggy friends. And what you'll get here is our conversation.
We know the topic ahead of time but we only read the other person's response when we are ready to write ourselves. It's off the cuff, off the top of our head. Who knows where it'll go.
This week my partner in crime is Jen from Classic Play. We're talking copying vs. inspiration, a hot topic with all the lifting of photos and posts that has being happening.
I've been thinking a lot about copying lately. Mostly because I know a few friends who have had their content copied word-for-word by another individual blogger who then posted that material as their own. Now I wasn't thinking about getting into the whole copyright issue and how to protect your work as such. That's blatant "copying". Obviously a no-no.
But what about inspired by? Where is the line? Is there a line? What's copying for you and what is inspired by? Henry Miller noted that, "And your way, is it really your way?" So is anything really original?
Ah! What a great first topic. I've actually thought a lot about this one. Back in the day, I thought everything I did was original. "AH! I'm so clever! Look at this thing I created! It's so original!" A few times, not long after I released the thing I created into the wild, I'd find an eerily similar thing pop up on a site, store or magazine.
Naturally, I was indignant. "Gah! Look at this! I did this same exact thing 3 months ago."
But then came Pinterest. And I saw I had not one original idea in the world. Not. One.
Now I see there's a kind of zeitgeist from which we all pull. It's actually liberated me to try new things. Things that I may have seen elsewhere but I tinker around with to offer an iteration or a different interpretation. Before I was so scared of copying someone, I wouldn't even try to produce anything until I was sure it was 'original'. So of course, I ended up not working at all. I'd sit around for weeks, in a semi-state of paralysis, trying to come up with something so novel that surely it proved I was creative, worthy, whatever the heck I was looking for people to think.
So I guess short answer your question, I see originality as iteration and interpretation's love child. To think about it any other way is bad for my mental health.
That being said, blatant copying or lifting word for word? Beyond lame.
How do you see it?
Omig-d to the being paralyzed while you wait until you find SOMETHING that no one else has done. I'm newer to this world of blogging than you and am still finding my own voice and style. I think that's why I can relate to you trying to be so original. I mean, of course, we all try to make or write something that's new. But putting on that pressure on ourselves so that we end up doing nothing? Not so good.
I do think, though, that there IS a place for copying. Really. Kind of a step before your iteration/interpretation lovechild. Not in a way that you put it out as your own work but as a way to break down why some writing or photograph or painting or film works. And why mine doesn't. Or at least not as well. Use it as an exemplar and try to recreate it.
Speaking of copying, last year my husband and I put together something I was really quite proud of. It was a short little video that was a 'reinterpretation' of the classic children's film The Red Balloon. I use air quotes very loosely because seriously, the first didn't need to be reinterpreted.
I was hugely inspired by the original film as a kid and thought it would be perfect to revisit. I incorporated themes of my blog into it (classic play, friendship, yadda yadda yadda). There were many similarities between our piece and the original. In fact we even used our own kids, just like Albert Lamorisse did. A similarity I had found out about after we produced it and thought it was pretty neat.
Now, were we trying to make some great masterpiece? No. Was I hoping to revolutionize anything? No. But was I hoping to make something that caught on? Well, yeah. I mean, I wanted it to create something that was thoughtful and entertaining. Why bother if I didn't want some sort of outcome, right?
It has been up for a year and has received somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 views. Meanwhile, a 3 second clip I made of a balloon car zooming across screen for another site got over 700 views in like a week or something. That short little clip literally took me no time. I shot it with my iPhone and uploaded it straight to YouTube. It was merely a supplement to a DIY tutorial I put together.
So, I guess what I'm saying is, even if you try to recreate something and it doesn't 'catch on' it doesn't mean it wasn't good. Or conversely, and this can be a bigger blow to the ego (at least for me) if you create something and it does catch on, it doesn't necessarily mean it was good.
Wait, did I just steer this train off the tracks. Get me back Sandra!
Thinking about your "homage" to the Red Balloon. No one would ever think that yours was the original, even if you slavishly remade it frame by frame. Yet it takes the themes and the feel and the look.
And I think that helps me get closer to what I have been thinking about - that copying or reinterpreting THE best of a genre. To pay homage and also to learn some skills.
What did you learn from making your short? How did it change you as a creative person?
As far as storytelling goes, which is at the heart of this art form I copied, I learned that subtle changes in a story could give it a radically different feel. I also learned that even though conditions may not be ideal, you can still put something together you could be proud of.
I don't know that it changed me as a creative person necessarily, although I do think it helped reinforce the idea that I have voice, and I don't have to be afraid of it.
I think about artisan apprenticeships. Small groups of young artists would go and copy the master's and then eventually spin off their own work. We should bring apprenticeships back. Actually, maybe, that's what the blogging community has become in a sense, yeah?
It’s become that or it can be that – like many art forms, you can only learn them by doing and also by working with someone else who is further along than you. I like that idea – working it like an apprenticeship.
So my friends, what do you think about copying? Where do you draw the line between inspiration and let's be blunt, theft of ideas and words and images? How can you learn otherwise? And what about this idea of an unofficial apprenticeship with those who have gone before you? What could that look like for you?