Original Copies or Original Sins?

Seeding our clouds for a rainstorm of ideas

Seeding our clouds for a rainstorm of ideas

Like dialing your rival at the same moment they try to dial you, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone at the same time as Elisha Gray. Bell got to the patent office first and legally received the credit and fame, but were they both being original? It’s your call?

A certain number of people read the same news, watch the same movie, face the same problem and have a collective ah-ha moment to offer a collective solution. You could be thinking of a “new” idea and unbeknownst to you, somebody on the other side of the globe is thinking the same thing. It’s discouraging to come up with a “original” idea only to enter a few keywords into a search engine to find others are already standing in the same space.

Paul Bloom described in a TED  talk how especially in the arts, we appreciate originals more than copies. He tells how a once admired masterpiece lost its value when it was discovered to be forged and how a gifted violinist, who was appreciated in concert was largely ignored when anonymously playing at a train station.

What can you to do to be original? As you are saturated with information, does too much stimulation prevent you from being original? A talented artist and prolific writer Val Erde recently asked the good question: “I do think that the more I’m on the internet – certainly with my habit of always filling up my mind with stuff I read on it – the less creative I am in terms of originality. Does it affect you the same way?”

Original and salt free

Original and salt free

Of course we are all influenced by our environment. Filling our heads with the latest thinking on subjects is like seeding our own clouds for a future rain storm of ideas. Everything we do is done in our own way and is somewhat original.

Some people believe that art is a reflection of our environment and culture -so as the kaleidoscope of our world changes, so does what we produce. Don’t worry so much if someone else is doing something similar – do your own thing and soon your brief overlaps will dissipate.

“Yes, one may make mistakes, one may perhaps exaggerate here or there, but the thing one makes will be original. You have read in Rappard’s letter the words: “I used to make things now in this, then in that style, without sufficient personality: but these last drawings have at least a character of their own, and I feel that I have found my way.” I feel almost the same thing now.” described Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo, c. 22 June 1883

We all have a unique experience and we all express things differently – as you put some words together, draw some lines, or dance, it’s possible someone else has done this before but when you add your own context and write a paragraph, paint a picture, dance a number, then it’s likely to say that this hasn’t been done exactly the same way. Does awareness of others increase or decrease your originality?



  1. That’s a good question. I believe sometimes I get an idea that is actually from something I read months before so I don’t know if I’m actually coming up with something new or getting it from something that exists. Reading so much it all tends to get blended together in my head. I think awareness can spark an idea that you can take in your own direction which makes it unique.
    Melinda recently posted..Finding the Humor | The First YearMy Profile

  2. Thanks Melinda – I agree, it’s difficult to know the origin of all our thoughts and even if we could track all our sources, the unconscious plays a role too (as you discussed in one of your recent posts). I think all the blending in our head is a step to creating something original.
    David Goldstein recently posted.. Original Copies or Original Sins?My Profile

  3. Most of what I do these days is not influenced by other people. I’ve spent so long creating my own style that I rarely even find anything that resembles it. Sometimes someone says that my work looks like another artist’s style but I can’t always see it myself. (Everyone sees things differently). But actually being totally original is not always a positive. For instance, in the days when I exhibited (mostly my watercolours) it was very difficult for me to find galleries willing to accept my work because it didn’t fit neatly into any existing genres. But yes, as you say, what we produce is original – unique to us, by definition of having been produces by us as individuals.

    Thanks for the mention!
    Val recently posted..Yeah, but what I want to know isMy Profile

    • You certainly have a unique style in your watercolors (i know i use funny a spelling for watercolours)- too bad the same establishment that claims to prize originality wants to put everything into into neat genres – and does not always know what to do with what is original. Thanks for contributing your thoughts Val!
      David Goldstein recently posted.. Original Copies or Original Sins?My Profile

  4. From a business standpoint David, the more I read others, the more I study, the more creative I become. For me, staying disconnected can impede the flow of originality. You said it best in “seeding the clouds” and then once that rain pours down, it’s filtered through your own spice, flare and additional mark. Going to look forward to reading your blog.
    Jacob Yount recently posted..We’ve Been Doing This for “X Number” of YearsMy Profile

    • “filtered through your own spice, flare and additional mark.” that really sums it up! I agree business and ideas move so quickly, we really have to keep up with what is current in order to develop the new.

  5. Originality is lost, this can be easily seen just by opening the TV or listening to the radio. Have you seen what Hollywood produces lately? Name one original movie, if you can.
    But since generations come and go, thing appear… new. Well, we can at least improve on them.
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  6. When I was living in Asia, the local TV station would promote an “all new Frasier” or “Friends” even though the shows were long over – I guess they were new to some people.

    I agree with you Richard, Hollywood seems to repeat and mix and match the same story-lines. In there quest to reach a large audience they are producing a lot of average products. I’ve seen some independent films lately that seemed original but none were memorable enough to mention.

    thanks for sharing your ideas Richard!
    David Goldstein recently posted..Just Five More MinutesMy Profile

  7. Influence is a powerful demands on everything. Its true that everyone create am mistakes. Either intentionally or not. Having those experience will enlighten you up.

  8. basil ethelrod says:

    To me the oddest aspect of my own originality at its strongest is that when I’m done blissing out on creating the piece and set it aside for the night, I can expect next day to see it as if for the first time, while having the sensation it’s something I’ve done [or dreamed] before. When that happens, now, I’m reassured.

    Yet the process by which I create virtually precludes my copying the work of others. In fact and sometimes to the detriment of my efforts, I used to abhor imitation so much I’d abjure any ideas that reminded me of anything else. But I think now that’s childish. While it’s possible superficially to mimic elements arranged in a specific way, unless you’ve created the piece originally, you have none of its creator’s foundations, understanding, and connections to derive the original’s combination of elements. Even the best forgers do not copy, but rather create new images in a style of karioke.

    That’s why the chief reason in favor of appropriating another’s work is to avoid that rushing disarray of ideas that springs out of each idea as you work and leads on to ungovernable demands for realization from the further ideas they generate.