One of the very best things we can do is imitate others.
Every child knows this. After their own exploration, imitation is their most powerful tool. The see someone do something and they imitate that choice, working to assert a kind of ownership of the skill and flavour behind it. By having some mastery they can integrate it into their own behaviour using it when appropriate.
What starts as imitation always becomes revelatory and unique. As we copy others we put our own spin on the choices, showing our character and intent by the slight differences we put on the choice.
As we integrate these learned routines into our own manner we use them as building blocks to create our own expression, mixing and matching them with other choices we have acquired and developed from other sources. It is through this pastiche we create our own unique texture and content, taking the pieces and assembling them into something completely new, something greater than the sum of its parts.
Imitation is always the starting point for creativity.
Observation is always the starting point for imitation. For example, if we don’t ever read novels, how can we ever learn to write a novel?
We need to take in both experiences and styles in order to find ways that we can collect, synthesize and express ourself with style and wit.
Art is about the process of making art, not the product created. Art is the process of imitating some thing or some style in a bold, precise, twisted and very unique way.
If we aren’t open to observing and engaging the world, open to the input side of creation, how can we ever be effective in the output side of creation, making powerful and personal contributions to the world?
If we resist imitating what we see — something children do with eager ease — how can we ever find new ways of expressing, new ways of creating? Risking looking foolish is required to swing the pendulum wide, going beyond our current comfort zone to find a new and more effective centre.
To become new we have to find new ways to be.
Isn’t it great that we see so many possible ways to all around us, if we just look? But how will we ever know which ones fit us unless we try them on? Once we do that, we can find ways to make them beautifully our own.
Creation always starts with imitation.
Every child — and every creative adult — knows that.