We live in a world where information is forever at our fingertips. We used to say that when the internet became available, but it’s more true now since smart phones have entered everyone’s back pocket.
It’s wonderful. Want to know about realism? Taylor Swift’s latest album? Who were The Monkees and why should I care? (Before my time, y’all.) The answer is just a tap-swipe away.
Any question can become a study. Any study can become a rabbit hole. One bit of information leads to the next and before long you have information overload.
Artists like to learn about art. We want to learn from those who have succeeded and accomplished great things. We need some more great ideas. The internet makes it so easy and accessible.
However, information overload is a big cause of artist block. You get so much great information and learn what the famous people have done but you’re left with no path to take. Because you can’t follow the exact footsteps that another creative has taken. When you do, you become a copy. A wannabe. An impersonator. And nothing is ever as good or as successful as the original. Besides, you want to be known for your work, not for someone else’s.
All the information about other people is great for a knowledge base, but it doesn’t propel you forward on your own path to excellence. Instead you become stymied. Frozen with too much knowledge and no instruction.
Good artists copy, great artists steal – Pablo Picasso.
Who can argue with Picasso? He’s famous, his art is known world wide, and he’s dead. Your chances to debate him are fairly limited.
He’s got a point here. You can have a lot of talent. Really be a good artist with all the details of your craft worked out. You study the greats and copy their work. It’s great stuff, after all. But those ideas are not yours. You’re not producing original works of art. They’re copies.
Copies are a great way to practice. They’re also a great way to learn new techniques. But they will never be the thing that makes you great.
Great artists steal.
How can you become great by stealing an idea from someone who has become great by it and not just be a copycat?
You have to let those ideas morph into your own. That means an info-fast.
An info-fast is when you no longer allow yourself to study, read about, or copy someone else’s work, process, and ideas for a period of time. I recommend no less than a week.
Just as a food fast helps to cleanse your body, an info-fast will help you clear your mind. You have plenty of information already. Too much, really. You have to stop adding more to it and let what’s in your mind simmer for a while. Then, the ideas that have been planted in your mind by the information you have taken in have time to take root and start to grow into something unique and original.
It will. No doubt.
Any idea that originates with someone else can become your own unique idea in time. Because you add the fertile soil of your mind. The nutrients of your experiences. The water of your dreams and musings. Given enough time, someone else’s thought will grow into a completely different looking plant. It will reach into different areas. The roots will dig up things that you’ve never taken the time to think about before. You’ll want to visit it, water it and prune it until it becomes a masterpiece.
It’s tough to shut off the flow of information for a while. Especially for creatives and introverts and readers and perpetual students. (AKA, me.) But you will be wonderfully surprised and rewarded for the time you take off. All of a sudden, finding direction and taking that next step isn’t so hard. Your mind will lead you.
Have you been copying great works when you should be creating your own? Will you challenge yourself to an info-fast? You can comment here.