Stop Trying To Be Creative: Everything Is A Remix

Jim Woods

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“Good artists copy, great artists steal.” — often attributed to Pablo Picasso but original source unknown 

Now I’m not saying you should rip other people off. But you should steal from others. And there is a clear line between the two. To most people, creativity is a mystery, something only a few people are born with, but certainly not them. 

When most artists are asked where they get their ideas from, some say they dream of them. Others say they simply come to them in the shower, maybe. 

But the reality is that ideas don’t just come to people from nowhere, not even to so called artists and geniuses.

The truth is nothing is original. Everything has been done before. And artists are aware of this, which is why they borrow different ideas and play with them. Artists are collectors who take the best ideas they can find and then reuse them in new ways.

The Beatles are considered to be one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Did they steal? Absolutely. They were a cover band and later made their own music by using songs from their heroes, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, a little Richard to name a few.

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They developed their own style by copying others. And that’s exactly what an artist is supposed to do. Copy from your idols, whoever they may be. The more influences you have the better. 

Don’t Steal From Just One, Steal From Many

Copying from one person makes it obvious that you’re stealing from that one other person. And that could be considered plagiarism. But when you taking ideas from 20 or 30 different sources and absorb them over time, that’s what makes you original. 

An original song or creative painting seems unique because you haven’t yet seen or heard the sources that inspired the composer or the painter to come up with it. 

When I was younger, I was a big fan of Led Zeppelin. I bought every single one of their albums, even if I could get their music online for free. I listened to the music all the time and even learned to play many of their songs on guitar. 

I was literally told that they had plagiarized a lot of their songs. The arpeggio of their most famous song Stairway to Heaven was apparently inspired by the arpeggio of a song called "Taurus" by the band Spirit. Although they are different, they are also similar. Some people claim that other of their songs like "Dazed and Confused" and "In My Time Of Dying" were also ripoffs. When I found out about this, I felt devastated. I didn’t want to believe that my heroes were ripping other artists off. 

I wanted to believe that they were super original, and that’s why they became so successful. After some time, I realized that whether or not they stole from these other artists or not didn’t really matter to me. 

I still believe they are one of the greatest rock bands ever. It wasn’t naive of me to believe that they were 100% original. They didn’t have to be the songs that they apparently stole from aren’t that good either way, in my opinion, Led Zeppelin songs are way better. 

Find some art and ask yourself how you can make it better. Stop pressuring yourself to come up with entirely new things that no one has ever done before. 

Art is not just what you do. It’s also what you decide to leave out, you will come up with a lot of decent ideas that shouldn’t make it into your work. Don’t try to force everything into it. Rather, enjoy the process. It’s creating art. It’s fun. 

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