Do you ever feel pressure to be original?

If I can be frank, I’m kind of sick of that word…original. There’s so much pressure to summon the muse, to conjure from nothing groundbreaking thoughts and sights.

I call BS.

If these are examples of plagiarism, then we want more plagiarism. – Jonathan Lethem

It seems like there are plenty of event professionals out there that have read the Ecclesiastical memo: There is nothing new under the sun. Austin Kleon‘s excellent book Steal Like an Artist opens with this permissive credo. If it’s impossible to truly create ex nihilo, then we’re free to borrow and repurpose as we see fit.

I don’t disagree with this, but methinks many of my colleagues have stopped there.

I posted this image a couple of days ago, hoping to incite some form of passionate conversation. Perhaps you’ll join the conversation in the comments below. Yes, it’s an obvious reference to a waning trend, but I believe it serves its point: just because you’re free from being truly “original” doesn’t mean you’re free to be a bore.

Pinterest is great, but what (if anything) are you doing with all those pins? Are you simply making facsimiles of someone else’s work (which they inevitably nicked from some other dark recess of the internet – or a neighbor) or are you remixing, collaging and making it your own?

In Steal…, Kleon mentions a fascinating article from the February ’07 issue of Harper’s. In it, Jonathan Lethem extols the virtues of many a great plagiarist who were savvy enough to shroud their source material in the veil of yet other sources, remixing through the filter of their experiences until their audience had no choice but to perceive the work as “original.” Kleon characterizes Lethem’s stance by saying “when people call something “original,” nine out of ten times they just don’t know the references.”

So this is my call: start appropriating from sources a little lower to the ground. Find inspiration outside the world of weddings or design. Absorb the work of someone you love and root out its essence – who did they love? Search for your creative grandparents and work your way up that family tree.

It’s OK to cop to not being “original.”

Nobody truly is.

But, please, do the world (and your muse) a favor and scratch a little deeper than the surface.

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