On Originality

I like to work under the illusion that my ideas are original. Really though, I assume many people have had the same ideas, and I assume some of them have already done something with them, but I doubt they used them to tell the exact same story I’m telling, and most certainly not in the exact same way. The details of my telling are a total rip-off of everything I’ve experienced, read, seen, or heard. The chances are, even if those other story tellers have seen the same things, read the same books, listened to the same music, they will have lived different lives. Our tales will pass through each other like ghost ships bound for the same shore, but on opposite tacks.
Here’s a quote from Jim Jarmusch. You’ve probably seen it. It’s been floating around the Internet for a while as a JPEG. Like all pithy quotes, take it to heart at your own risk. It is interesting to read it in context.

Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”
–Jim Jarmusch

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