Talent Borrows, Genius Steals
I get ideas for what to write about from things I’ve read. I do art projects based on things I’ve seen. I train based on what I’ve heard worked for other people.
Are my successes any less my own because of that? Of course not. So why, why, WHY do we make ourselves crazy thinking that when we copy we’re cheating?
One of my first bosses inculcated an acronym into me: B.A.S.E. It stands for Borrow And Steal Everything, and it is the single best way to become more efficient at your job. Learn from people who have done it and do it that way. Look for what’s already been done and build on it. Share freely and ask just as freely. The brilliant Lucy Kellaway pointed out the virtues of copying in one of her columns for the Financial Times.
This is just as true for creative pursuits as for processes. There are no new stories, no new plots, no new ideas – just new ways of telling them. Artists are all copying from each other. David Bowie said it best when he said, “The only art I’ll ever study is stuff I can steal from.” And Kellaway agreed: “Copying gives me access to an infinitely richer and more varied menu of ideas than if I had to limit myself to my own meagre store.”
So there’s the goal for the day. Go forth and steal shamelessly.