Monday, April 11, 2011

Imitation, the Sincerest Form of Flattery


Have you ever imitated someone?

I have.  As a kid, I loved every t.v. show I watched.  To express my admiration, I copied funny lines from various characters and used them in conversation later.  I soon became known as "the funny girl," a title I still hold--at least in my family circle.

As an adult, I still imitate others.  It isn't quite as overt now.  Instead of copying witty phrases, I shamelessly steel good ideas then make them my own. In fact, I've stolen so many ideas from one friend, as I walk through her house, I can say, "Got it.  Got it.  Want it.  Got it."  Imitation isn't only for tangible things either.  In fact, imitation works particularly well for ideas, attitudes and outlooks.  Ever known someone who's joy shines so bright is makes you walk a little taller?  Ever try to act and think like that person?

In the art world, imitation is not only tolerated, it is embraced.
Let me explain:  As an art student in University, students are often taught about artists then asked to reproduce that style in a work of art.  For instance, let's say you are studying Picasso.  Typically, a professor will outline Picasso's great works, then you spend a majority of your semester reproducing one of his works in order to learn Picasso's process.

As you get further into your studies, you learn more and more about other artists, styles, and philosophies.  Finally, towards the end of your art degree, armed with techniques and processes, you are allowed to make the leap to establishing your own artistic style.

The same idea applies to our entire lives, no matter how much we try to avoid it.  We imitate the people who raised us, (for good or bad,) we imitate our friends, (hello junior high!) we even imitate our kids (I know, right?)  The point is, while we should strive to make our own stamp on the world and our lives, to some degree, we all are products of imitation.

Author Stephen Einhorn wrote,
Do not be ashamed about imitating others.  Ask how other people do things.  Try to think your way into how they think.  Learn from others, and be generous with teaching others.  Imitating is allowed.  Curiosity is allowed--it is even a good thing.
The Art of Being Kind
Which brings me to my point: If we see something we admire in someone, it's o.k. to imitate them in order to understand them...for a while.

However, imitation is ultimately short lived.  (I can attest that I nearly never use a funny line from an 80's t.v. show in casual conversation...) Remember our art class analogy?  Eventually, we are set free to make our own style based on the foundation of what we imitated.

Then the real joy begins:  We get to emulate those we admire, to explore our own creativity and to find out who and what we are really about.  There, in the pursuit of our imaginings, our best selves wait, to greet us like old friends, just waiting to be found.  

Who do you imitate?  Emulate?

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  1. Being a newbie blogger, I'm emulating other blogs. Not copying, not imitating, but being inspired by the best.

  2. Great word choice. We absorb so much from our environment.

  3. What a great world it would be if we all emulated the Savior!!! I try, but am far from being "good" at it.

  4. Entertaining, to say the least.