The Struggle Between Inspiration and Imitation

Something that has been on my mind a lot lately, over the last few weeks, is how to differentiate inspiration and imitation. The internet is not a new thing. Chances are, almost every single thing, has been done before. This isn’t meant to sound discouraging. Yesterday, I ranted on my Instagram stories about the general complaint that people on social media are not real. After finishing said rant, I flipped through the Instagram stories of a few bloggers I follow. And one of them posted a similar rant, highlighting almost identical points, about ten minutes before I did. I point this out to say that, few ideas are 100% original. 

I’m not, in any way, saying that’s a bad thing. I just want to point out that the point of posting on the internet is not to be 100% original. It’s to create content that is yours. It’s unique because it’s yours, not because it’s never been done before.

I am not ashamed to admit that, a few years ago, I was a blatant imitator on Instagram. Before the save feature was implemented, I would scroll through feeds I loved, screenshotting my favorite poses. I would later try to recreate those images. I was horrible at taking photos with my self timer at the time(can’t say I’ve improved much at this point tbh), and so my photos were clearly inferior to those I was “copying”. That didn’t change the fact that I was, attempting to, carbon copy the photos of more established bloggers.

Even though I’m not ashamed to admit that I did this, I fully did not realize what I was doing. I lacked inspiration, so I merely imitated what successful people around me were doing.

I follow an account on Instagram that I think is absolutely stunning. I’m not the type of person who has the talent or attention span to spend hours photographing and photoshopping whimsical photos together. But if I was, I’d want to be her. She, quite often, posts on her story about where she got inspiration for her photos. In every single case, she takes one concept from a photo, and recreates the one single concept, in her own way. It doesn’t feel at ALL like she’s copying, but that she’s simply taking inspiration.

No one wants to see the exact same photo show up on their grid, twenty times in a row. Instagram would crumble into oblivion because we would all get bored of it. I love being able to take inspiration from others photos, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to create a carbon copy of what someone else has posted. Always add your own style to it, because that’s why people love and follow you. I have hundreds of Instagram posts saved, and when I’m lacking inspiration, you can bet your butt I’m scrolling through, until I find a post that resonates with me and sparks inspiration.

Going back to my first thought about originality. No one can be entirely original. Embrace that. Instead, focus on making something entirely your own. Everyone always refers to their “little corner of the internet”, and although I hate that phrase, the meaning behind it is so true. It is your piece of the internet. So don’t rely on other peoples hard work, simply to copy their concept. Be you, post photos that are yours, distinguishable as yours, and people will be drawn to you because of it.

One Reply to “The Struggle Between Inspiration and Imitation”

  1. Camille McCausland says: Reply

    It has been said that “imitation is the highest form of flattery.” Anyone who gets good at anything will tell you that they “follow” someone who is a master at their craft. Every musician uses the same notes and the same chord structures to compose a song, but they use them in a different way, in a different style that is uniquely their own.
    The concern is only when someone crosses the line from imitation to duplication (in which there is clear plagiarism, boot-legging, or copyright infringement).
    Your point is well taken. When we lack inspiration, we can immerse ourselves in the works of those we admire, and it can help spark new ideas.

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