'Nobody is born with a style or a voice. We don’t come out of the womb knowing who we are. In the beginning, we learn by pretending to be our heroes. We learn by copying.
We’re talking about practice here, not plagiarism—plagiarism is trying to pass someone else’s work off as your own. Copying is about reverse-engineering. It’s like a mechanic taking apart a car to see how it works.
We learn to write by copying down the alphabet. Musicians learn to play by practicing scales.
Painters learn to paint by reproducing masterpieces. Remember: Even The Beatles started as a cover band. Paul McCartney has said, “I emulated Buddy
Holly, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis. We all did.” McCartney and his partner John Lennon became one of the greatest song writing teams in history, but as McCartney recalls, they only started writing their own songs “as a way to avoid other bands being able to play our set.” As Salvador Dalí said, “Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.” First, you have to figure out who to copy. Second, you have to figure out what to copy. Who to copy is easy. You copy your heroes—the people you love, the people you’re inspired by, the people you want to be. The songwriter Nick Lowe says, “You start out by rewriting your hero’s catalog.” And you don’t just steal from one of your heroes, you steal from all of them. The writer Wilson Mizner said if you copy from one author, it’s plagiarism, but if you copy from many, it’s research. I once heard the cartoonist Gary Panter say, “If you have one person you’re influenced by, everyone will say you’re the next whoever. But if you rip off a hundred people, everyone will say you’re so original!”
What to copy is a little bit trickier. Don’t just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style. You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes.
The reason to copy your heroes and their style is so that you might somehow get a glimpse into their minds. That’s what you really want—to internalize their way of looking at the world. If you just mimic the surface of somebody’s work without understanding where they are coming from, your work will never be anything more than a knockoff.
A wonderful flaw about human beings is that we’re incapable of making perfect copies. Our failure to copy our heroes is where we discover where our own thing lives. That is how we evolve.
So: Copy your heroes. Examine where you fall short. What’s in there that makes you different? That’s what you should amplify and transform into your own work.
In the end, merely imitating your heroes is not flattering them. Transforming their work into something of your own is how you flatter them. Adding something to the world that only you can add.'
- Austin Cleon
I read a book with this quote in it, just thought I'd put it on my bio, its utterly inspiring and helpful for those who create art. Have a nice day whomever is readin' this :P
- Some random teenager who is obsessed with Supernatural, writing, reading, and watching TV shows.