Not in a vacuum

It can be easy to look at great geniuses like Newton and imagine that their ideas and work came solely out of their minds, that they spun it from their own thoughts—that they were true originals. But that is rarely the case.

~ Shane Parrish from,

There’s a perennial discussion around creativity that gets described various ways: “Steal like an artist.” “Repurpose what’s been done before.” “Creating new from the old.” I like Parrish’s point, (in the article but not the quote above,) that “geniuses” first mastered the best that others had to offer. Then they go onward and farther to create something new.

If the only thing someone has ever done is sample and remix others’ work… meh. But if someone has mastered some field—art, math, music, whatever—and then recombines and extends, (or pares down or transmogrifies)… then, ok. My distinction feels very close to the, No true Scotsman, logic fallacy, and yet I think it’s a useful distinction.