Why Copying Inspires Creativity

A guest post by Di Mace of Word Swords

Copying is how we all learn.

From early childhood through to adulthood we are in a continuous cycle of copying, reimagining and combining.

Blogging is no different – by emulating things we read, see and hear we then become comfortable with our tools of trade and are inspired to remix, recreate and reimagine new different derivatives of the original.

At first, newbie bloggers may copy, but good newbies copy and try to understand how it works in the overall scheme of blogging. Further still, a great newbie may also copy, but with modifications based on what they’ve learnt. The difference between the three newbies is up to their ability, their drive to improve and their level of expectation from themselves.

The true essence of this argument is the ‘thinking’ that’s done behind the copying. That defines how well you learn and in fact if you learn at all. It’s being spoon-fed versus being told which spoon to use and how to use it.

We learn technique from emulation. And being great at something (including blogging), is sometimes defined by how well one masters technique, not by originality.

No one is truly original. By connecting the great ideas of others (through initially copying), some of the greatest leaps of ‘originality’ have occurred.

Blogging is no different.

The Copy-learning cycle

Look back to when you learnt to write your name.

For most of us, we first learnt this by someone writing it for us, and we then copied it. When you wrote your first blog post, I bet you copied a favourite post from another site. That doesn’t mean you cut and paste. Instead, you learnt the basics by copying the techniques, and then over time you changed them; and in the process, found out what happens when you do.

The difference between those who actually make it (in anything, not just blogging) and those who fail is the willingness to take the hard road. The easy road will eventually end because you’ll run out of things to copy-by-rote, which will either force you to learn, or force you to give up.

If you don’t make the effort to learn from your copying and starting to make your own interpretations, then you will undoubtedly fail. But once you’ve learnt the things necessary to start making your own blog a success, you must then start the creation process.

Combine, connect, modify

People learn from their own drive to improve, and their own expectation of themselves. To clarify, it’s not actually through the cloning or copying that you learn, it’s how you rework it so that the expression becomes your own, how it synthesizes your own ideas with the source.

That’s technically how you learn from copying.

Here’s where it gets most fascinating. From copying, you then begin to understand, and from understanding you then start to play and transform. You’ll connect and combine ideas, thoughts, styles, contents; transforming and fusing them into something new. Finally, to make sure you understand everything, you’ll try modifying. If the result of your modification meets with your expectations, then you have finally learned something.

So the process of learning and creating is: copy, understand, connect, combine and rework, then create your own reinterpretation (of what was once just an exercise in copying).

Substance, style and structure

Once you’ve gained the knowledge, confidence and ability to make your own decisions on structure, style, substance, design and implementation, then you have diverged from copying.

Funnily enough, as soon as you start copying from more than one source, then copying as a mindless exercise doesn’t work anymore. At this point, you are forced to start to understand what you are doing – otherwise you won’t be able to integrate the pieces into something passionate and effective.

The structure of your blog and layouts will take shape, plugins, links and sharing tools will be added, a whole network of support elements will start to form the web of your blog platform. This platform will then support your growing content strategy.

Your content strategy is how your blog will convey your style and voice – your blog-mojo.

First you will copy, study and incorporate the things you’ve learnt from others into your own work and blog. But blogging success has less to do with genius or talent, and more to do with the innate self-discipline to nurture your own talent to its full potential. With patience and practice, slowly your tone and mojo will start to shine and be recognisable as you.

It will transform from a copy into your very own voice. Not a copy of another.

Inspiration and reimagining

Over the course of history, many great ‘inventors’ or ‘thought-leaders’ were in essence, remixers. They used the basic ideas and techniques that they’d collected and learnt, to inspire the creation of their own interpretation.

Most artist’s first works are derivatives of another’s work and the tradition of copying the successful works of Old Masters to learn their secrets, is still carried on today by artists who wish to develop similar skills and sensitivities to form.

Hunter S. Thompson re-typed F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms in order to learn about the writing styles of the authors and to get the feel of writing a great novel.

In order to understand the words of our blogging-sages we need to put ourselves in their day-to-day shoes. They know how things feel and work and wear. We need to practice with their tools.

Think of it this way – we’re all using the same building materials; we just assemble them in different ways – some better than others. You need to play around and learn and you’ll get better until you get good enough to create your own reimagined work.

Some of the greatest original ideas have been born by copying and learning technique first, only to be remixed and reborn, and this is an important stage of the blogging process.

You should leave yourself open to learning from copying others and using their work as reference to assist you in your own creations. It will help you to progress, learn and expand your own talents until someday… people will be copying you!

 

Has this inspired you to learn-and-create? Let us know, in the comments.

Di Mace is a marketing and business writer, editor, re-inventor, blogger, learner, searcher for the perfect pencil case and storyteller; basically she spins gold from the straw at hand. She blogs at Word Swords.

 

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Di Mace

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