In Creativity, Authenticity Outplays Originality

Photo by Kevin Dooley

Photo by Kevin Dooley

"Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: 'It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.'"

– Jim Jarmusch, American independent filmmaker

I’m a movie geek (heck, I was born in Hollywood). I have no shame in going to the theater alone, and I often get there early for the previews. For me, there’s nothing like it. This is my happy place. Filmmakers are masters of theft. Great artists steal. Why? Picasso said so.

As a young designer, I spent countless hours in search of an original idea. Then I came across the quote above. Boy, was that a sigh of relief. I printed it out and put it in my cubicle. It became my motto. It’s when I grew up as a designer.

Authenticity and originality are not interchangeable. Let me be blunt here: you aren’t original. Someone has already thought of that. But, hey, that’s okay. Take a step back to focus on you. When you’re true to yourself, your work becomes the beneficiary. And if you get stuck (as you most certainly will) take a break, go to your happy place and come back to it with a fresh perspective. It works. Every time.

Be better than original. Be authentic.