This is a guest post from the excellent Branden Barnett. Learn more about how to guest post for Creative Juicer under the About tab.
Branden Barnett is a licensed psychotherapist/songwriter/blogger who blogs about how you can Be More Creative at The Artistic Treatment. He releases albums as a solo artist and with his band Ghost Shirt at www.brandenbarnett.com
The first time I heard “Getting Better” by The Beatles, I decided that I would become and forever stay a musician. It was 7th grade, I was chubby with a Zack Morris haircut, and I wanted to be Paul McCartney. I talked my friend Robert into buying a bass guitar (the infamous “phantom”) and that was it. I am still making records, obsessing over sounds and relentlessly digging for the next song that’s going to make me want to keep going.
So how do we know if we’re letting to much of our influences into our art? How do we know if we’re being too derivative or stealing? Read on to find out.
Creative Influence: The Michael Jordan Effect
Most of us share a similar “this is what I was born to do moment” that is linked to experiencing a piece of art. The moment where a piece of art gives you goosebumps and makes you want to do exactly what the artist is doing is phenomenon I like to call The Michael Jordan effect.In the early 1990s, there was not a pre-teen boy alive that didn’t want to be Michael Jordan. He could fly, and I wanted to be like Mike.
I didn’t care that I was a chubby little white kid from Eastern Kentucky… I would… I had to grow up to be Mike.
The Michael Jordan effect made me pick up a guitar in 1995. When I heard Belle and Sebastian’s “If You’re Feeling Sinister” in 2006, I had it again. At that moment, I knew that I needed to stop being just a guitar player and start writing and singing my own songs. I had to be Stuart Murdoch. This was what made me start my band Ghost Shirt.
It’s good for two reasons:
1. Creative Influences Keep You Going
When we give ourselves permission to make art, we are willingly opening the door to anxiety, uncertainty and fear of failure that are all natural parts of the creative process. Experiencing the Michael Jordan effect with a new record, movie, book or any work of art is what gives us the giddy boost to keep going.
The deeper and more knowledgeable you are in your craft, the harder it is to have your mind blown by an artist that works in your medium. When we do come across something that changes the way we think so much that we want to be that person for a moment, it resets our exhaustion and we get more excited about making art.
2. It’s Almost Impossible to Steal
When we are inspired by a work of art to the point that we go home and try to copy it, it’s not a bad thing. When we try copy a work of art, the end result is rarely just a rip-off. While the first draft may sound just like the source, the process of editing, rewriting, unconsciously (or consciously) bringing in other influences, and our own voice will inevitably transform the work into it’s own unique thing.
I could never write a song just like Bruce Springsteen, but the sound of me trying to write a Springsteen song could lead to something new and interesting.
We shouldn’t get to caught up with having a unique voice and not being derivative of our influences. The creative process itself makes it very hard to do something exactly like anyone else.
Seek inspiration from great art.
Allow yourself to be inspired without worrying about the end result.
Sit down and get to work.