But who is to say that a derivative work cannot be equally as satisfying as the original? As long as the pieces are different enough, is it fair to say a certain one is better?
Take for instance the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera The Mikado. The composers set the opera in Japan, far away from Britain, allowing them to satirize British politics more freely by disguising them as foreign notions.
Opera Australia’s 2011 production of The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan.
In 1939, the classic was adapted into a new piece entitled The Hot Mikado and performed with an all African-American cast. Primed with a lot more sass and a lot more swing, The Hot Mikado became a hit that is still performed to this day.
Now it’s been over 70 years since the original piece was given a facelift. Thus, theatres are still looking for ways to update the show and help it feel as novel and sexy as it was when The Hot Mikado first took the stage.
This recent production does just this by updating the 1940s American setting to a modern one that tips its hat to the original Mikado, complete with the “three little maids” in anime-style schoolgirl outfits. Up to you to decide which version you prefer – but I’d say there’s definitely room for both in the world of live performance.
Watermill Theatre’s production of The Hot Mikado in 2009
When you place all your effort into one-upping those around you, you forget to put effort into yourself. And in an instant, life becomes about the accumulation of things instead of experiences. You race towards that next promotion, or award, or publication, feeding an ever-hungry ego and forgoing the joy of the ride.
And it’s easy to get caught up in it all – the media tells us we need to look a certain way, Facebook friends publicize their successes by the second, your family expects you to become a doctor or a lawyer (or maybe marry one), peers and colleagues ask “what have you done lately?” And suddenly we’re frantically looking around convincing ourselves that everyone around us is more successful and more fulfilled than we are. When in reality, everyone’s trying to strike a better balance to make themselves happier.
I’ve even seen this among the WordPress community (which on the whole is a welcoming and supportive one) with individuals literally begging to be Freshly Pressed to have another accolade that can momentarily satiate that creeping feeling of “does what I do matter.” Here’s a secret: you don’t need that nod in order to make a difference. Whether your page has 5 views a day or 5,000, you never know whose lives you may be touching by sharing your story, photos, poetry, jokes or whatever else you offer. All this to say, focus on making you better. It does no good to waste time on wondering why you haven’t reached some threshold of success that you’re coveting. Improve yourself and your work, and the recognition will follow.
The next time you feel a pang of jealousy or inadequacy, step back and reevaluate. Are you angry at that person because they’ve done you some wrong, or because you want what they have? If the answer’s the latter, start working to get where you want to be. Because I can’t remember the last time someone got an award for sitting around and grumbling.
Compete against yourself. It’s a worthy adversary and in the end, you’ll always come out a winner.