Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Back to the Wilde

“I am not made like any of those I have seen. 
 I venture to believe that I am not made like any of those who are in existence. 
If I am not better, at least I am different.”
                                                                   -- Jean-Jacques Rousseau 

Self portrait 3-27-13
 "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken."

I read this quote on a high-end car ad in my program at an orchestra concert last week. My husband elbowed me and pointed it out. Clever, I thought. The quote was un-attributed and I momentarily gave credit to the ad writer for the cleverness.

Then I smelled a rat. Or rather, I smelled a copyrat.

As it turns out, Oscar Wilde said it first. Oops, wait, no. It was Winston Churchill. Er, I mean Abraham Lincoln. Wait, wait, George Bernard Shaw! Yeah, that's it, Shaw said it first.

Here's my beef.

If you didn't say it, write it, sing it, whatever it, please don't take credit for it. Attribute properly and carefully. Give credit where it's due. Don't  co-opt someone else's clever witticism as your own. Because it cheapens you.

If you read it in a book, give the author or the character credit.
If you read it on the internet, say so.
If you heard Seth Myers say it on SNL, say you heard Seth Myers say it on SNL.

I love the sentiment of the Wilde-Churchill-Lincoln-Shaw quotation. I was actually kind of geared up to write a little blog post about the importance of being myself. But I have to admit that its potency got diluted for me somehow once I sniffed out a copycat. So I am ranting instead about the importance of being honest. (Yep. I am playing with Wilde's title The Importance of Being Earnest.)

In his how-to-succeed-at-business book Rework, Jason Fried says:

“... if you’re a copycat, you can never keep up. You’re always in a passive position. You never lead; you always follow. You give birth to something that’s already behind the times—just a knockoff, an inferior version of the original. That’s no way to live.” 


Getting back to Wilde ... In his letter De Profundis, which Wilde wrote to his intimate friend Lord Alfred Douglas during his imprisonment in 1897, he (really, he did) wrote:

"Most people are other people. 
Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, 
their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation."

That makes me super sad.
Mostly because it's super true.
Here at A Face A Day, I sincerely try to be myself. I have zero interest in being other people. That's why I am so passionate about self portraits. I try to think my own thoughts and have my own opinions. If I exercise mimicry, I will tell you am exercising mimicry. My passions are my own, and if I quote someone else to communicate my passions, I will give credit to the best of my ability. If I get it wrong, I apologize. 
But wrong attribution is still better than selfish misappropriation.

You can quote me on that.