Some of you who follow me on social media may be aware that Project Runway is one of my guilty pleasures. Those of you familiar with the show, particularly if you're caught up on the present season, may have some idea why I'm bringing this up. For those who don't know the show, it's a fashion design competition, which is an entirely different world, but still a glimpse into creative endeavors.
If you are following the current season but aren't current, you may want to stop reading.
In a recent episode, the designer Claire started to work on a shirt that was a near copy, form-wise, of the design that had won the previous episode. The creator of that design, Margarita, was distraught, couldn't stop focusing on it, even when Claire changed what she was doing. When it came out in the judges' panel, they pointed out that they borrowed from each other all the time. It's a natural process in fashion.
The grand wisdom of social media, of course, is never to read the comments ... and, also of course, I did. People came down hard on Margarita for whining, for being a diva, for not getting over herself. I think almost anyone with a creative passion would understand how she felt. Knowing on a logical level that an imitator hasn't done anything "wrong" doesn't help: it still hurts. And that line between inspiration and plagiarism? It's often mighty thin and almost always subjective, as is the line between when something is a fair-game trope versus a specific person's trademark.
There is nothing new under the sun, just different arrangements of the same pieces, yet writers bond fiercely with their designs. It's how we breathe life into them.