All art is derivative. And that’s OK.

28Jun10

I often joke that there hasn’t been an original idea since about 1971. Sure, there have been some amazing technological advances. But most pop culture is pretty derivative.

Today I was reminded that it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

First, I got the very welcome news from my friend Tom (aka “The Blogfodder”) that the winner of the annual Bulwer-Lytton writing contest had been chosen. Never has a tribute to bad writing been so much fun—or the image of a gerbil so disturbing.

Then, I found some notes from an interview I conducted a few weeks back. At one point—I can’t recall why—the candidate mentioned Garfield Minus Garfield. The current postings are unfortunately only ads for the new book. But some of the older cartoons are priceless.

I found myself pondering: Is art (or prose, music, or dance) any less creative because it’s based on an earlier work? Is art truly “creative” only when it’s also truly original?

Think about it for a second. Then, watch Nina Paley’s wonderful, thought-producing short, All Creative Work is Derivative.

There’s no shame in leaping off someone else’s creative platform.

In fact, sometimes imitation is the fastest route to truly original work.



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