creativity

Inspiration versus Imitation

inspiration vs imitation

Inspiration versus Imitation. It’s a blurred line in our world today, where it’s easy to take other people’s stuff, repackage it into a lovely little black and white quote, repost it, and take credit for it as our own.

I’ve seen this even with incredibly high profile and successful individuals - for example, a leading researcher and author recently being credited for inventing an “amazing new term” in 2019, when in fact I learned this term five years ago from a friend in Vancouver who learned it from someone else before that. Neither my friend nor her friend were cited by this renowned researcher and author, of course. Or another best selling author being credited with all sorts of concepts on interviews and podcasts and reposts that were actually taken verbatim from others, but that are being repackaged in a snappy way on Instagram and in books and being marketed to women across the US with wild success.


”There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.” - Mark Twain

I believe in Mark Twain’s perspective on ideas. I believe that many ideas are a rebirth of some sort of idea that came before. I believe in the myth of the ah ha and the fact that slow hunches are formed gradually - often by bringing together a number of ideas that came before. I believe that ideas are formed from hundreds and sometimes millions of data points - many of which are not even recognized by our conscious mind.

And, I believe that if we are reposting or sharing or recreating something that was explicitly created by someone else, we need to be transparent about this. That the right thing to do is to cite authors and researchers and sources. That if we are reposting a pretty black and white quote of a concept that was created by someone else, that we need to clearly disclose that we are the messenger versus the creator.


In my courses and retreats and workshops and events, I aim to do this by including sources and references for anything I share that is not uniquely mine. Online, I aim to do this by never reposting a pretty black and white quote of a concept that I did not create. And in conversations, I aim to do this by mentioning the source (or at least what I believe to be the source) of concepts that I mention that come from somewhere else.

Some questions we may consider include:

  • If I am sharing something that explicitly came from someone else, am I crediting this person appropriately?

  • If I am inspired by something that explicitly came from someone else, is my version unique and original in some way?

  • Am I regularly creating time to connect to my own inspiration - the inspiration that only lives within me, versus on other people’s websites or social media feeds?

What about you? How do you find the place of inspiration versus imitation? And what are your thoughts about this blurred line between the two, in our current time?

Image Credit: Ben Weber