"Creativity isn't magic. It starts out simply enough - you're copying and then you're fiddling with whatever you've copied, and then you're merging whatever you copied with something else. It's only over time, with years of practice, that you start to get results that are breakthrough."
That CNN link is definitely worth a read in order to understand this connection between creativity and building on the work of others.
"[After copying others for a while] your own style begins to emerge. You don't decide what your style is, you discover it. Style is hard-wired into your brain and it's a matter of discovering what your style is and then sharpening it, exploring its dimensions."
People told me they could recognize my work long before I thought I had developed a style to be recognize. I'm still not sure I totally see it, but I still get told it's easy to see. Follow the link to read the entire post which makes excellent points about immersion and surrounding yourself with people better than you are.
"The idea that people copy because they lack creativity is powerfully harmful…To deny people the right to copy, intimately, from others, is to deny the essence of what it is to be a creative person…Creative people are supposedly those who do not copy or imitate others; copying is supposedly theft. In truth, creative people must copy and must imitate others. Our copyright laws should be changed to reflect this reality."- William Patry, senior copyright counsel at Google Inc, in an excerpt from his new book, How To Fix Copyright
I realize that last one is controversial but I must admit that I often think people go overboard on the copyright issues, seeing infringement where there may be none. Feel free to discuss by leaving a comment.