Most artists are brought to their vocation when their own nascent gifts are awakened by the work of a master. That is to say, most artists are converted to art by art itself. Finding one’s voice isn’t just an emptying and purifying of oneself of the words of others but an adopting and embracing of filiations, communities, and discourses. Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced. Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos. Any artist knows these truths, no matter how deeply he or she submerges that knowing.
From the title essay of Jonathan Lethem's The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, etc. The piece is fascinating going, so far—it’s about making art and about plagiarism, and especially about how the two (as queasy as it might make us to admit) are inextricably linked.