In others’ footsteps

I imagine a bookstore full of empty shelves. A gallery, no frames on the wall. Spotify searches that return No Results Found. All because we conflated creativity with originality.

As children we happily draw what’s in the coloring book, build what’s on the Lego box, tell the same stories we’ve heard before. At some point, we learn that creating isn’t enough, that we must express ourselves. Great art, we learn, is original. Making a copy is boring. Perhaps even criminal. And certainly worthless.

(Note that our association between originality and value derives primarily from art’s commercial market, not its aesthetic or artistic intent.)

This is how we become creatively timid. We fear to tread in others’ footsteps. And so we stop taking steps at all.

Banish the word originality from your dictionary. Make, make, copy, make. Experiment, or don’t. Keep your brushes moving, your feet tapping, your words dancing across the screen. When we forget about originality, we nurture more creatives. With more creatives, originality will balloon.