This is true.
When I taught drawing I had to break my students of the idea that their big triumph was going to be when they could ‘recreate’ something they saw. I would explain that they are putting marks on a piece of paper, that’s all. They are not making a new vase, or a new naked person. They are putting marks on a piece of paper. Their triumph would come when they could make those marks be visually, and perhaps emotionally, exciting to someone. They were not going to achieve that if, as they were working, they were under the illusion that they were trying to imitate something. The harder they tried to imitate, the uglier their drawing ended up being, and the more ‘nothing’ it was.
BUT, it isn’t just wholesale imitation one has to look out for as a creative person. It is easy to see when something has been stolen lock, stock and barrel. But it is the small, partial, creeping imitation in the parts of original creations one more often has to be vigilant about watching out for.
Falling back on the illusion that ‘something seems so comfortable about this, it just fits’ and not looking deeper and realizing that comfort is really just you having seen it on HGTV, or at Target. Watch out for fooling yourself that you are original when you are merely rearranging something that has been around for years.
Imitation out of laziness or ease. Imitation out of fear. Imitation out of unbelief in your ideas. Those are the death knells of the ecstasy of originality.
Imitation equals just what Dali say it does…nothing.