I found Maria Popova’s article, “Uncreative Writing: Redefining Language and Authorship in the Digital Age,” to be unbelievably refreshing. To hear the ideas of people such as Kenneth Goldsmith and Charles Eames and their interesting takes on creativity gave me a new perspective that I totally agree with. In this day and age, people are constantly copying other people’s work. People are copying and posting photos to their social media sites that they did not take; musicians are sampling bits of old songs and using those samples to create new songs. With this type of copying and mimicry comes incessant criticism. For instance, music artists who sample old music for new songs are often viewed as being unoriginal or not real musicians. I do not think that Goldsmith or Eames would agree. Rather, they advocate the idea that we must, in the words of Eames, “reconstruct these smoldering embers into something new, something contemporary, something – finally – relevant.” I love this interpretation of reusing old works of art. It is a way of keeping things that could potentially become outdated new and fresh.
Goldsmith’s insight about creativity really resonated with me. He believes that “the suppression of self-expression is impossible. Even when we do something as seemingly ‘uncreative’ as retyping a few pages, we express ourselves in a variety of ways.” He goes on to say that our choices and our reframing of others’ work is equally as valuable as “original” work is. To me, this is definitely true. This makes me think of an example in my own life. In school, I have been endlessly urged against plagiarism. Every year of my school career, I have been threatened that if I so much as word a sentence too similarly to another person, I will be considered a criminal and get in enormous trouble for plagiarism. While I understand that schools want to make sure that their students are thinking independently and working hard, sometimes I just do not know how to rephrase a sentence that is already so perfectly said. If I read something and am then asked to summarize what I read, sometimes I have a lot of trouble re-wording a brilliantly stated sentence for the sake of not getting in trouble and being considered a thief. It reminds me of the famous phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Why must we find a thousand different ways to say the same thing just so that people’s pride and ego can stay in tact?
Another bit of advice that Goldsmith provides is the idea that “if you don’t want it copied, don’t put it online.” This seems like a no brainer. The point of a person sharing their ideas, art, music, etc. online is to gain the attention of other people and for other people to recognize and identify with what you are putting out there. However, people want to share their ideas and expect other people to stay at a certain distance where they can look but they cannot touch. To me, this is silly. People forget that others share the same ideas as them. In this enormous universe full of all different types of people, places, and things, how could one believe that their ideas have not come across another person’s mind? How could someone claim sole ownership of a thought or a phrase that millions of other people could have potentially been thinking, but just did not write it online or publish it somewhere for all to see? If one truly wants to protect their work from others and not be emulated or copied at some point, then they should probably keep their work to themselves and enjoy it alone.