I heard this many years ago in an interview on TV:
"Your weakness is your strength"
I didn't understand it, it just sounded like nonsense. But the phrase stuck with me for some reason, and after a long time I began to understand it. And in looking back, my weakness is what has defined my work all along. The parts I didn't know, the parts I had to work-around is what came out the most rewarding. Most times we do not know we are compensating for some weakness, we just work until we are happy with the result. I'm suggesting that what really goes on when we are working is weakness being transformed into strength. Here I'd like to take this idea a step further and suggest using "not-knowing" as a creative tool.
Let me take a practical example. When I was developing the original 1.0 version of Trapcode Particular I wanted to add shading from composition lights. But I didn't know how to implement shading, so I started to investigate it. I realized that to understand shading I needed to understand light. Fully. In trying to understand the maths of light I "accidentally" created Trapcode Lux. Without my "not-knowing" of how light worked mathematically I would never have created that plug-in. Had I just looked up in my old CG textbook the formulas of shading, I wouldn't have gone there.
There is in fact great value in "not-knowing", investigating and experimenting. I totally understand that with looming deadlines this is just not possible. But I want to encourage you, when you do have the time, to make your own investigation of the subject matter. You never know what great stuff may come out of it.
And regarding copying: that is how we naturally learn new things. We see things that resonate and we try to replicate, to mimic. But it is the failure of copying exactly that becomes the personal touch, the original part. In this sense, weakness becomes strength.
So, in essence, I want to suggest this method as a creative tool at your disposal; that when you need to do something, rather than looking for a formula or tutorial for it, you can try on your own. But when you don't have the time to experiment, or feel lost or uninspired, or just don't want to, there is of course nothing wrong with using a formula.
Peder Norrby / Trapcode