“What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.
History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.” -King Solomon
I love these words – they may seem negative, but when we embrace them, life becomes more beautiful, and is lived with greater vulnerability. In working with and observing other makers, we often experience the conversation that an idea can be “stolen”; a design can be “copied”. While this can happen, and probably will happen to any creative who establishes enough exposure, it may be a blessing in disguise.
Our ideas are never our own. They come to us through friends and family, through experiences, through faith; they are meant to be pursued, but we are unable to ever own them. And when we see another pursuing one similar to our own we should feel inspired and also complimented. If we are truly trying to add to our community, we should want the ideas to be shared, if we value our ideas as significant we should want them to be “copied”? Think of the greater blessings that can be poured out; from one maker they can be significant, but from many, change can be inspired.
I think back to my days as a writing teacher…
Often I would use a few sentences from a rich piece of literature, to introduce a new concept. One day in particular, I read the first sentence from “A Wrinkle in Time”, it reads, “It was a dark and stormy night.” I stopped there, and my students, precious 10-year-olds were staring up at me, waiting for the next sentence. I asked them what this sentence did? And of course they agreed that it made them want more. They shuffled off with their writing partners to collaborate and scribe beginnings, and later when we came back to share it turned out about half of the class used the same opening sentence; “It was a dark and stormy night.” Now, it was actually more humorous than anything, because this sentence wasn’t related to most of their stories, but they wanted to use it. They wanted their writing to captivate as Madeleine L’Engle’s writing had captivated them moments before. It was precious, and a beautiful teaching moment.
Instead of going into a conversation on plagiarism, we went another direction. We discussed the meaning of the word “inspire”, and how L’Engle inspired them, and how good it felt to be inspired. And from there they worked with their writing partners on how their first sentences could inspire, but also connect to what their own story was about.
We will all face moments where we feel threatened or insecure about the ideas of another in comparison to our own. We can choose to feel discouraged, angry, and covet ownership. Or we can choose to remember that something made by our own hands can never truly be copied, and the process holds more significance than the outcome. And if the process is genuine, authentic, and made in humility, the product will be beautiful and substantial.
The greatest blessing, ideas evolve, concepts change, and if we stay vulnerable we can listen and move with the tide.