"You Will, Oscar, You Will..."
It was the late 1800's and James McNeill Whistler (the man behind the painting "Whistler's Mother"), was at a party with Oscar Wilde (considered to be one of the great wits of the nineteenth century). Apparently, Wilde also had the reputation of appropriating clever expressions spoken by others.
During their conversation, Whistler made a funny remark that led Wilde to say, "I wish I had said that." Whistler, no less of an imposing character himself, responded, "You will, Oscar, you will."
While Whistler's retort was meant to be - depending on which account you read of it - a bit more pointed and biting, the whole exchange got me thinking about what we consider to be originality.
Art, commerce, and any field of endeavor for that matter, builds on what has gone before.
Indeed, the very essence of creativity is to learn of and build on what we've seen, heard or learned in our past.
We tend to get caught up in this idea of 'total novelty', when even the masters appropriated, massaged, co-opted, in order to create. The fact of the matter is, that we learn, we absorb, we interpret, and we create with this foundation.
Now, of course, I'm not talking about plagiarism, which is clearly wrong (and which was the subtle bite behind Whistler's comment to Wilde).
What I am saying is that even The Beatles and the Stones built on the blues men that came before them. The Spielbergs and Coppolas absorbed and transformed from their heroes. And certainly, businesses of all shapes and sizes do this day in and day out, as they look to solve a specific need in a more specific, more refined way.
My point is, we shouldn't get caught up in this myth of 'complete originality'. Yes, we should strive to be original, yes, we should assess what we've done and decide if it meets our standard.
But the emphasis is on DOING. We shouldn't let it become a noose or a restraint, holding us back from doing the necessary work of creating.
We should simply create.
And if we love what we've done, offer it to the world.