Tag Archives: creativity

The Line Between Imitation and Inspiration

One of the ideas that I’ve been thinking about over the last couple of weeks is the internet and how that relates to the proliferation of ideas in relation to the pure creation of ideas. I think that one of the characteristics of the modern, digital age is that it is much more difficult to create in a vacuum. It’s difficult to achieve what I call “pure” creation. In general, ideas all of origins and those with a digital trail are very easy to follow. In thinking about myself and my daily process, I’ve realized that often times I forget where an idea originated from simply because I read through a lot of content. On daily basis, I skim through about 50-100 titles of articles, blog posts, and news headlines. I skim through about 20-30 of those pieces. I read through about 5-10 of those particular pieces. It’s easy to tell that I can’t always sift through all of those in order to find out where an idea that I’m thinking about, came from and that calls into question whether I’ve been inspired by something or whether I’m just imitating something I’ve already read.

Imitation is something that I think is just a consequence of the Internet. You can find just about about any story in a thousand if not more different places on the web and that obviously means that your attempt to imitate an idea isn’t all that worthwhile. It will just get lost in the shuffle and the adage is true. An imitation is nice, but it’s never quite as good as the original. I think that the line between imitation and inspiration is difficult for some people to ascertain. It should be obvious that we should strive to be inspired by things and strive to create something new. For me one of the effective ways to keep the line in mind is to always “give credit where credit is do.” We grow up in school always being told to cite our sources and that’s great for formal pieces, but people often forget that citing a source doesn’t always have to mean creating a document with a title, body, and footer. It’s not necessary. Whenever I write something, I’m just diligent in making sure that I’m citing the origins of my ideas, and whenever possible linking to where an idea came from. In that way, I know almost instantaneously whether I’m just rewriting something or writing something that was brought about by inspiration. I think that if you know the line between imitation and inspiration then that lends itself to helping you to not fall into the hole of attempting to mimic someone’s success in place of doing something that actually matters to you. 


“Scared Shitless” (Webstock 2011), Merlin Mann

Merlin Mann is a writer, speaker, and broadcaster from San Fransisco. He is known for such things as Inbox Zero and the Hipster PDA. I have talked about both of these topics in the past. Mr. Mann’s self-proclaimed goal is to develop positive habits that allow people to be their most productive, yes, but more to the point, their most creative. If you can’t already tell, I really admire his work and you should definitely look into some of his current works and writing (MerlinMann.com).

Aside from his Inbox Zero talk at Google, “Scared Shitless” is arguably one of my favorite talks by Merlin Mann. It is simply a must watch. Merlin tells us how he learned to love to be scared of everything… you have to watch it to really get it and it’s definitely worth your time. It’s a relatively short 27 minutes or so and will most certainly have a profound impact on your outlook on life. Enjoy and once again go to MerlinMann.com.

Thanks for the great insights, Merlin.


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