The other day I was sitting in the dentist chair and a song came on the radio that I had never heard before because apparently I’ve been living under a rock. (On a related note, my husband finally believes me when I say I missed nearly all of the 90s because I was running a small business and my tiny black-and-white tv only picked up three channels…) Anyway, the song was P. Diddy’s “I’ll be Missing You” and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was a complete ripoff of “I’ll Be Watching You” by the Police. Of course, I later googled it to get up to speed on all the copyright details, and that isn’t really the point.
The point is, I don’t like to imitate. I like to do my own work. Yes, I may never do anything wildly original, but I don’t want to just do what someone else has done the way they have done it.
But the problems is – when you start to realize what’s out there – what is original? Every story has been told. Every idea has been stated. Every picture painted. And when you start to do your own version, let’s be honest – it is probably not even as good.
This thought stalls me out completely – often.
So, why tell the story that’s already been told? Why create art derived from an idea you got from someone else?
Because it is your way of communicating with your own circle of influence.
If I share an idea with you in a blog post that I totally got from Seth Godin…well, you might not be reading Seth Godin. And because I am discussing the idea from my perspective, it will resonate with you in a unique way. And if you want to discuss it with me further, it is much easier for you to engage me in a conversation than him. If I draw a comic panel that is reminiscent of a Lynn Johnson (For Better Or Worse) storyline, it is still my own life I am talking about, and you get a window into my world and a new connection between us because you have experienced the same feelings.
Your art matters because it is yours. Your spin on a familiar subject is important because it is your way of communicating with your own people. My dear friend Suzy has called me her “favorite artist,” which I have struggled to wrap my mind around. How can I be anyone’s favorite artist? I’m solidly mediocre on a good day. But you don’t have to be the best. You just have to do the work, and be brave enough to put something into the world to make a meaningful connection.
So go do that.