We learn, initially, by copying others. We learn to talk by mimicking the sounds coming out of other people’s mouths, we learn to write by tracing scripted letters on a worksheet, we learn to dress ourselves by following what other people are wearing. But as we grow and mature, we have to find it in ourselves to remove the training wheels of imitation, and, wobbly as it may be in the beginning, slowly learn to trust ourselves by finding our way down our own path.
In any creative field, whether it’s the arts, fashion, design, music, dance, literature or film, finding our own perspective and sharing our unique voice is an important aspect of expressing a vision. In essence, anything that is created is a form of expression and communication, something manifested from our imagination, and so having something to say and a unique voice to say it with is important. Otherwise we are just creating noise–parroting other peoples’ visions and regurgitating what it is they have already done without adding anything new—while losing ourselves in the process.
Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. While that may be true, imitation is really a disservice to everyone involved because it carries with it the underlying message that each person’s unique perspective isn’t enough, we have to try to be like someone else. Admiring someone else’s work or vision is the most natural thing, but aspiring to be like them shouldn’t make us lose our own point of view or discredit our own unique experiences and perspective.
Learning to take inspiration from others while adding more of ourselves to the mix is one way of moving away from imitation. Broadening our experiences and scope of interests adds depth to our inspirational pool and gives us more to draw upon. Most importantly, learning to recognize and respect other people’s work, while continually working to develop our own, finally moves us past the infantile impulse of imitating and into the vastly more exciting endeavor of creating something truly inspired.