I just heard a report on NPR about the musician Bill Kirchen. Kirchen was relating how he learned to play a particular song by listening to a record of it over and again. Then he came out with this line: "Mine was originality borne of incompetence." In other words, Kirchen improvised because he couldn't imitate.
I wonder if today our creativity is limited because the machines we use to do our job are so magnificent. We have all become so adept at sampling, at reproducing, at zeroing in on a technique and exploiting it, rather than thinking up a new technique. We can do this with ease, deconstruct the layers, follow the patterns, read the blueprint.
We rush right into things--right into comps that appear finished without letting our incompetence, our outside-of-the-line-ness come into play.
I have remarked before in this space about junior portfolios being small-scale duplicates of the sort of work that wins praise from Cannes juries. Inscrutable visual puns. All technique, all imitation, no imagination.
About a decade ago when my children were young I took them to see a much heralded production of "The Lion King" on Broadway. The producers believed that the audience would insist on a live production that was an exact replica of the animated movie. Every snicker, facial expression and "ad lib" was duplicated by live performers. They were made into imitation machines. Their character, if they had any, was not permitted.
As a culture, as an industry, we have learned and mastered the art of Karaoke Creativity. Something can be good only if it imitates something else that is good.
We are afraid of mistakes, afraid of incompetence, afraid of affront.
We are not afraid to bore. We become experts.