Imitation Can be a Form of the Sincerest Appreciation

“You copied me!”

Nuh-Uuh

Yeah huh.”

As kids, this can be a back-and-forth which leads to either a tousle of words or an actual physical tousle. As grown up creatives, this can become something confusing and disconcerting. It almost seems as an affront to being original. I have seen some people on social media outlets arguing about other people ripping off of their ideas, copying them, or even stealing from their audiences.

The idea of choosing this photograph of birds as a feature photo for this blog post was inspired by interior design magazines, wallpaper designs, and textile patterns I absolutely adore. I had an art teacher in New York who was a former Pratt Institute graduate who taught at the Fashion Institute of New York. Her specialty was textiles. This is something she imparted on me, which grew over the years.

On on social media I have seen people copying the ways I express myself through graphics and stories I tell on my stories or posts. For me personally this is a signal that I was a source of inspiration much like my teacher Carol and countless scores of highly gifted, aesthetic-savvy cosmopolitans were for me. In this regard, I find imitation to be the sincerest form of appreciation and inspiration as a way of cooperative dreaming.

If you are a gifted creative or entrepreneur, or even both, you are bound to be imitated in some way or another. There is a boundary between appreciative imitation and infringement of intellectual property, however. This is a line you have every right to draw and enforce through professional legal advocacy when you need. If it does not cross this line, consider yourself appreciated as a source of inspiration.

The bottom line is this—you can aspire to the style of Iris van Apfel, but you cannot be Iris, you can admire the vocal range of Mariah Carey, but you cannot be Mariah, you can admire the writing genius of Malcolm Gladwell, but you cannot be Malcom. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to assume and manifest our own greatness. We cannot realize the greatness of others, only our own.

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