Evolution of a Quote

“Creativity is nothing but undetected plagiarism.”

I heard this quote first from Ralph Clevenger, in October 2013 during a photography workshop, and it made me laugh. I liked it so much that I wrote it down.

When I asked him about it after his presentation, he pointed out that it is his own adaptation of an older quote by William Ralph Inge, from 1929: “What is originality? Undetected plagiarism. This is probably itself a plagiarism, but I cannot remember who said it before me.”

Inge was right! Voltaire said: “Originality is nothing but judicious imitation. The most original authors borrowed one from another.”

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5 thoughts on “Evolution of a Quote”

  1. Agreed! And the sooner we embrace this fact the less we seek to make similar works by others, and seek to make work in our own uncharted paths…but all art has its inspiration.
    I suppose a deaf (from) birth musician or blind (from birth) painter may be exempt from traditional influences.

  2. Creativity: the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.

    I think the operative word here is “transcend,” which thus “creates” something new. Sure, it may be inspired by some previous idea or creation but calling it plagiarism taints it as something negative. If every artistic creation is plagiarism then we need a new definition of true plagiarism.

  3. It makes sense to me Alexander. And I did smile and giggle a bit. Still, it takes alot of skill in one’s chosen area of interest, to rise above plagiarism…Sure we are influenced by other’s contributions. It’s how we interpret them into our own work, that to me ,is creativity..


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