The value of ideas

People who know me well know that I cherish the creative process and have a lot of respect for those who create content from scratch. The title of this blog is content crafting after all! Some recent events have caused me to think further about creativity, the value that people give to ideas, and where the line is between inspiration and stealing an idea.

What is an artist?
There are very few “jobs” in the world where the definition of what a person does can be interpreted in many ways, but that’s the case with being an artist. And that’s directly related to the end result that an artist produces: a work of art. As art is subjective and there are as many ways of seeing the same piece of art as there are people on the planet, everyone has a different definition of what an artist is.

My own definition of an artist implies creating new things. Like for music. I’ve always had more respect for the Beatles than for Elvis because they created their own songs from scratch. Can an interpreter be considered an artist? Not in my book. But you’ve got the right to disagree; as I wrote, there are as many definitions of an artist as there are people. You can be an interpreter if you’ve got the right mix of sensibility, knowledge and technique. But as much as Elvis had talent, I don’t consider him to have been an artist as the Beatles were. And don’t mistake “stardom” or “fame” with “artist”.

Tell me how much?
What is the value of an idea? Or the question should be, do you give any value to an idea? Because with value also comes the respect one can have for something. Not only are ideas on the top of my list, I believe that everyone should also respect other people’s ideas. There is so much work and thought put into creating someting that didn’t exist, everybody should give respect to that.

You can get sued if you copy in part or in totality the melody of a song. And if you work in a scientific field, you can loose your job, get banned from your association or even loose your degree if you steal someone else’s work. And it’s a crime. On the web, people feel that they can take or use that stuff to their own profit because it’s untangible, unlike a manufactured product. If you’re in front of a house and the door is not locked, does it give you the right to get inside and take everything you want?

Inspiration or rip-off?
Where is the line? Or is there a line between being inspired by someone else’s work and stupidly copying what that person does. If you’re producing content on the web, you’ve probably experienced it. We all have. May it be for a blogpost, a video, a startup or a podcast. First, we have to define what it is to be inspired by something else. Again. It’s my own take on that but you don’t have to agree. For me, inspiration is when something stimulates my brain and pushes me to grab an aspect of that thing and generate something else that is different from the original.

I’ll give you an example. I liked the podcast In over your head that Julien Smith did. And what I liked was that he took a position on a subject. The guy swears all over the place, rambles about a lot of stuff, tells stories (that I sometimes doubt are completely true) and does it for a half an hour putting songs in between. Brilliant stuff I tell you.

How did it inspire me? I just decided that I should be more assertive in what I say. Period. So I began starting my show with a big and bold statement, explaining that statement for a few minutes and coming out with an unexpected conclusion just before the jingle starts. Honestly, it has nothing to do with what Julien did, in the content, the form, the delivery, the words, nothing. I liked the fact that he was assertive and took a position on a subject and it’s the only thing that makes it similar to what I do. It’s similar from a philosophical point of view but when you hear it, you can’t tell how the two are related. I was already talking about some stuff, already doing a critique about that stuff. My position on a topic is just more assertive now.

To me, that’s what inspiration is. It’s to take one aspect of someone else’s work to improve what you’re already doing, to improve your own ideas. Everything else is stealing. Well, almost. When you use someone else’s thoughts to write a blogpost without his consent, take someonelse’s idea to develop a new application or cover the exact same topics as somebody else AND do it in the same manner, I can’t really respect what you do. And others won’t respect you either. People are not foolish, they see it. And don’t misunderstand me, topics are not one’s possession and everybody can talk about whatever, but please have the decency not to use the same angle, the same words and delivery.

That said, if you want to use someone else’s work to support what you want to say, ask them. People are more likely to let you use their content if you quote them and tell where it came from. It’s more respectful and everybody likes to be taken as an example. And I do too.

Photography by What What

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