Creativity and Piracy – Silent Bedfellows

by Glen Stansberry

Creativity and Piracy - Silent BedfellowsI love watching shows like VH1?s “Behind the Music” and reading about how bands developed their original sound. Usually it’s nothing more than a band member being exposed to a certain type of music at an early age. Other times it’s an event, like being at a concert and something striking a chord. (Wow. Awful pun.) It turns out that what influences a band is incredibly important to the sound they develop on their own.

Masters” that create amazing work almost always quote their inspirations. Other writers, musicians, pieces of art… something is always inspiring their output.

The Web has created a massive platform for finding inspiration. There is no shortage of creativity that can be gleaned from different online sources. In fact, if you’re going to create amazing things, learning how to plunder inspiration and ideas is going to be an important part of growth.

Learning the Art of Plunder

I would be a lousy writer without the Web. Clarification: I’m still not very good. But I’d be much worse. Thank your lucky stars I’ve had inspiration from a cadre of better wordsmiths.

In fact, I openly plunder other writer’s works all the time. The best part of the Internet is that stealing is encouraged, provided there’s attribution. Blogs aren’t a static medium and perfect for conversation and responses. Here’s a few recent articles I’ve stolen ideas from:

  • an article on TechCrunch about the rise of content farms
  • a friend pointed me to the story of the infamous “Brown M&M rider” of Van Halen’s
  • This book has always intrigued me
  • a single line from the BBC series Planet Earth
  • and pretty much every resource on this page.

It’s safe to say that if it wasn’t for other writers, this blog wouldn’t exist. Before you grab the pitchforks and round up the posse to run my unoriginal arse out of town, consider this: I’m not alone. In fact, snagging inspiration is a major part of how we learn and improve.

Fledgling artists are often taught to mimic the style of the Greats as closely as possible, to learn different styles. It’s not uncommon for art professors to assign direct copying of masterpieces for learning purposes. As one art professor I’ve chatted with put it, copying is “the quickest way to learn best practices from the best artists”. These students are trying to replicate the greatest painters in history, and by doing so they’ll learn more than any textbook or lecture.

These students can’t learn how to create their own style without learning the best practices first. It’s not copying, it’s learning.

Plundering Resources

Finding sources of inspiration is going to be crucial to any creative endeavor. Don’t be afraid to start “stealing” inspiration from other sources.

Teddy Roosevelt once said “do what you can, with what you have, where you are”. We live in an age where information and inspiration has never been more free and available. Don’t be afraid to use it.

Here’s a collection of previous writings that show how I steal inspiration from others online.

The important thing isn’t where your inspiration comes from, but the fact that you’re actually inspired.

So where do you find inspiration to create? Let us know below… I’m sure we can all learn from it. As this community grows daily, the discussions have become more and more interesting and thoughtful. I’ve learned a ton from you guys, and am totally in your debt. You guys are incredible.

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Glen StansberryGlen Stansberry writes at LifeDev, a blog that helps people make their ideas happen. You can follow him on Twitter here.

No comments

  1. Great article!

    Every field has its geniuses, its top 1%. I have been “lucky” enough to work with a lot of them through a varied journey some might term a career. If you’re going to steal, steal from the best!

    A quick example: I got to work on a project with Bill Aumiller & Keith Youngquist, the creative architectural geniuses behind Rich Melman’s “Lettuce Entertain You” high-concept restaurants. I learned more just absorbing the atmosphere in those restaurants and working on one restaurant project with them than I did during all of my college years.

    Lessons learned with them helped me to visualize a project for a client of my own (www.frontstreetbrewery.com), which has stood the test of time like Bill & Keith’s projects have.

    There are too many other stories to tell, too many other people to credit. I don’t think of myself as having much talent, but I have learned to soak up the great ideas of other truly gifted people. And that has made it possible for me to do some pretty cool stuff.

  2. Very well said, Glen.

    I learned this lesson first as a public speaker and professional presenter when I realized that many of the “talking heads” within my industry were all pretty much saying the same thing… but what made it cool was that each of us brought our own history, spin, style and personality to our speeches, talks and breakout sessions.

    As a fledgling blogger (I have been at it less than a month), I am already discovering that I want to “re-write” blog posts and content that is already out there and published. I find myself reading and saying to myself “yes, cool idea and great point… but I would have also said…”

    Your blog post was emailed to me from a friend, and I am glad she sent it. I have not yet pulled the trigger on my plundering ideas, because I was not sure how to go about it. Your thoughts on the subject have put my mind at ease. Thanks!

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