William Shakespeare was a plot pilfering plagiarist. There, we’ve said it.
In truth, he’d be the first to admit it – probably just before inventing a bawdy new insult to throw back at us. And, considering the circumstances, who could blame him?
Writing for, acting in, and managing your own theatre company during one of the most turbulent periods in British history doesn’t leave much room for unproductive day-dreaming.
So what if he borrowed a little here and there. So what if he rehashed old plays and stories. So what if he hung his fancier clothes off the mediocre mannequins of others and called them his own.
You just have to let it roll because he was so damn good at it.
In fact, swipe files, plagiarism, borrowing, copying, unoriginality, sameyness, nothing new under the sun, whatever you want to call it, is something that anybody who works in a creative industry will be uncomfortably familiar with.
Time constraints, stress, lack of coffee and a multitude of other things, can all play havoc with a muse who’s a sulky loafer at the best of times. But when you’re trying to coerce it into a commercial straitjacket, it often becomes belligerent, bolshy and, worst of all, silent.
So, for some, Shakespeare included, it’s not surprising that the work of others was/is a vital source of inspiration and ideas, of creative fuel.
It’s a creative shortcut. It spurs you on to greater things.
In that vein, we found a book recently at a local charity shop. It cost 50 pence.
It’s called “100 TOP COPY WRITERS AND THEIR FAVORITE ADS“.
Nothing special there you might think. Digital bookshelves are full of similar things. Until you realise it was published in 1954.
It’s a fascinating read. It has that lovely musty smell you only get when you shove your nose into an old book – which, sadly, is a smell also reflected in many of the ads contained within it. Let’s just say that some of them are definitely of their time.
The tone of voice (stuffy, chauvinistic), the product (war bonds, cigarettes), the naive illustrations; most of the ads would/could not have been written today. And yet, it’s still a valuable addition to any marketing library.
It’s probably quite a rare book. It’s certainly not one you’d expect to find in the far-flung reaches of the South West of England. But, that’s synchronicity for you.
Anyway, to us, it’s a rare gem. Why? Because it reminded us that we wear dead people.
That might sound odd, but we do. And not just those of us that buy their books or clothes in charity shops, either. Everybody wears dead people.
We all clothe ourselves in the ideas, the stories, the personalities, and the values of people we see, meet, hear/read about, or aspire to be. We all follow in the steps of those that have gone before us.
And we all find encouragement, inspiration and passion from people who’ve struggled to reach the places we’d also like to go to. Even if they made missteps along the way.
The book also reminded us of something else. Times change. Technology changes. Attitudes change.
It might seem like the world is outpacing us, but that’s life in advertising. You have to keep adapting, keep trying, keep the passion, and yet, always keep coming back to the same core truths.
- Exchange value
And embrace change where you can. It’s the enemy of sameyness. It’s your friend, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Especially if it makes you uncomfortable.
It takes a lot of effort to keep going until you get to somewhere new.
Real creativity lies in getting past the obvious; in finding inspiration and value in new connections – shocking, surprising, memorable connections between unusual things put together in unusual ways.
Still, as far as we’re concerned, if you’ve created something you’ve achieved something. You’ve brought something into the world.
It’s important to remember that when critics are sharpening their words.
Take heart from old Shakespeare, the Tudor Text Thief. Ideas might not be entirely new. They probably aren’t. However, when placed in context, all an idea has to be is new enough.
And, as for Shakespeare, what book is the codpiece-wearing copyist charged with “borrowing” from now?
“A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels” by George North.
Wait a minute… Rebels? Shakespeare, you cheeky bardstard.