Imitation: The Gateway to Inspiration

May 31, 2021 4 min read
Imitation: The Gateway to Inspiration

In 1650, Spanish painter Diego Velázquez was commissioned by Pope Innocent X to paint a portrait of his.

Three centuries later, another artist would attempt to recreate it. Despite never having seen this painting in person, the Irish artist Francis Bacon would repaint it, over and over again, completing a total of 50 paintings during the 1950s and 1960s.

Diego Velazquez's portrait (left) vs. Francis Bacon's first study (right)

During the summer of 1957, another famous artist, Pablo Picasso, was inspired by Velázquez's masterpiece, Las Meninas.

The first thing I wrote that actually got me quite a bit of exposure was a novella called “An Emperor’s Will.” I wrote it when I was 16 years old, and I won a National Literary Contest. And a lot of published writers read it and loved it. On an online workshop frequented by some of the best SF and Fantasy writers in Romania, it received mostly positive reviews.

The problem?

It was written in a style that eerily resembled that of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

One more thing about this novella… it was the first time when I wrote like crazy. I finished it in 30 hours. I didn’t get much sleep. I wrote and wrote and wrote.

You could say that I was obsessed with this story, with the way I managed to write in the style and manner of one of my favorite authors.

One of the most important lessons we learn quite late in our creative career is this: it is not until we become obsessed with someone else's work of art that we are able to create our most inspired work.

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