Why copying is an underrated skill

March 21, 2021

Don't try to be original.

There’s 2 ways to say this.

The cliched way by using this quote:

“Lesser artists borrow; great artists steal." - Pablo Picasso

Or, by explaining to you in words why copying is an underrated skill.

Why you should copy others

A lot of people think they have to make original things.

Original ideas, original code, original designs, original art.

Yet, most work is derivative. And believe it or not, repeated derivative work leads to original creations.

When you’re new to something, you don’t have the experience or raw skill to make compelling original work.

To produce "good-enough" work in your early days, copy from the best.

You don't know why something is great, but you'll come to understand as you keep stealing ideas from great people and implementing them as if they were your own.

How to become an original

My earliest work for everything - design, writing, product, anything - was copying. I copied from everything and everyone, as long as they were the best and worth copying from.

Eventually my skills started to improve, I started developing my own ideas and intuition around each skill.

Now, I could copy + apply my own twist to create something slightly unique.

As you go along this journey and gain more experience, it becomes easier and easier to produce original work. To design on an empty canvas. To write code and solve logic or UI without referring to Stackoverflow.

And suddenly, you become an original.

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