The true nature of creativity: pilfering and recombining the work of your forebears (who, in turn, pilfered and recombined)

Originally published at:


I’m pilfering from @Papasan right now.


So, its true. There are no new original ideas.


I’m looking at it right now…

Pilfered @Papasan and recombined with @doctorow ism.

Art is fun!


No one creates things in a vacuum, everything is based on something that preceded it in some shape or form. Copying and remixing is pretty essential to creativity, of course there are instances where the work is not transformative enough but information and ideas should be free. To lock those down with copyright is hurtful to innovation.


I take issue with the video’s wording that “this generation is the first to reduce its freedoms and give this land [of creativity] away to landlords.” I don’t necessarily believe that we’re giving it away – the landlords seem to be seizing it with legal force purchased through their vastly superior wealth, and then using this growing media monopoly to tell us that their ownership of culture is a good and necessary thing.


“The artist never borrows. He Steals”.
Now declare your idea of who originated the remark. Don’t all shout at once. (I like to think it was Oscar, but I’m prepared to be proven wrong.)

The video certainly traces its origins pretty well.

I usually see that quote- or variations thereof- attributed to Pablo Picasso, who also had a good one about not trusting quotes from the internet. :smiley:

My dad teaches a college honors course on the creative process- I’ll pass this article on to him. Thanks for sharing!


Unlike you Philistines, my creative genius springs forth from a complete vacuum.

I print out words and suck them up in a vacuum cleaner and see what sentences it manages to create when you empty out the bag.


copyright law is as failed as the nation states that perpetuate it. Just more katastrofik disaster capitalism built by sociopaths. It is literally impossible for something to be more irrelevant.

If you haven’t discovered it yet, here is one of the best shows available about idea, and inventions. Available free -



I don’t always haz mixed memes.

But I got it from him and he got it from me, so we are going in circles now.

This happens to me with erotic poetry refrigerator magnets.


I keep waiting for some blue blood publishing company to attempt to claim copyright over the alphabet itself.

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You mean Google?

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In medieval times, when originality wasn’t trusted, authors would make up sources that didn’t exist. Rather than say “I made this up, it is my story”, they’d say “I got this from an old manuscript from old so-and-so.”

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Of course there’s nothing new under the sun. That’s why we don’t have clothes, or canned food, or electricity, or television. The fact there are no original ideas is why we’re still living exactly as the Cro-Magnons did 20,000 years ago. That’s why the only way we have to make art today is to crawl down into a cave and spit ground-up clay onto the rock. That’s why artists today are still drawing exactly the same things they did in the 13th century.

Professional writer and semipro artist speaking here:

This “no new ideas” thing is crud. Too often it comes from people who are bitter over the fact that they themselves are incapable of thinking of something new, based on frustration and jealousy. People who espouse this philosophy either don’t know, or turn a willfully blind eye to the existence of, two very important related facts:

  1. There is a difference between stealing something and being inspired by it. Some of the “no new ideas” crowd miss this because they are honestly out of touch with it. But some deny this because stealing is the only thing they can imagine; they don’t have anything in them that can be inspired.

  2. There are different types of creativity. Any writer will tell you that you can’t be a writer unless you’re also an avid reader. Why? Because seeds won’t grow in sterile ground. For an idea to germinate and grow, the mind has to be properly prepared. Reading the work of other writers is vital – it waters the imagination. The same thing applies equally to art. Seeing what others have done provides a spark that can ignite a creative impulse in the viewer.

Only God can create in a vacuum. Mortals require a starting point.

There are two levels, or types, of creativity: adaptive, and original. Adaptive creativity is easy to define because it’s easy to see, because it goes on all the time almost everywhere. And it’s easy to confuse with stealing, especially when the person who writes about it wants to denigrate something out of his bitterness at having no creativity himself. Adaptive creativity is when someone looks at something, reads something, thinks something, and speaks the magic words: “what if?”, or “maybe”, or “would it be better?” This kind of creativity is often unrecognizable because it’s too common. It comes from billions of people, millions of times every day. Maybe the soup would taste better if we added a pinch of garlic. Would it help the story and make the character’s motives clearer if we make him a member of an oppressed minority? This is test pilot creativity – let’s push the envelope with this thing and see what happens.

It can be difficult to distinguish the creativity types, especially when those who practice what they think is creativity think that they are being really creative if they just keep adding more slight variations. Like a Michael Bay film – hey, let’s add another explosion and make this one in space, that’s real creative! Yeah, right.

There are people who can truly come up with an absolutely new idea, something which no one has ever thought of before. But it’s impossible to identify them in advance, and their number is vanishingly small. I think it was Robert Heinlein who said it, through one of his characters in his novel Stranger in a Strange Land. Art is an interest for only a small minority of the population. In fact, it is a real interest for only a small minority of those who claim to be interested in art. And true creativity – in art or in anything – is something that occurs in the smallest minority of all. The fact that true originality is very rare does not mean it doesn’t exist, any more than the fact that opals are hard to find means there ain’t no such thing.