Copying versus inspiration

I don’t know about other writers, but I often struggle with the urge to ‘copy’ someone else’s brilliant idea.  I am so frequently inspired by others who come up with clever names for blogs, interesting topics, new approaches and I think, why didn’t I do that?  Why can’t I do that?  I know in my head that it’s all subjective, and what one person finds brilliant, another finds dull… but when I stumble upon a particularly clever or interesting idea I desperately want to ‘steal’ it!  It’s not that I’m jealous or can’t come up with my own ideas, I am just so awestruck at the brilliance of some thoughts that replicating it somehow pays homage to it, and reinforces my opinion.

This feeling of stumbling upon greatness is pretty similar to that spark of inspiration that seems to strike at the most inconvenient times.

I think there really isn’t that much difference between feeling inspired generally and feeling inspired to replicate.  The way I write is so unconscious, it just floods out, so I find being objective about my writing really hard anyway, which means that what I perceive as brilliant might not actually be as good as my own writing, it’s just that I can be objective about it.

So how do you use others’ success as inspiration?  This is a hard question to answer.  I think rather than copying what someone does, it’s better to look at their overall journey, learn how they arrived at that final creation and be inspired by that process, rather than the outcome.

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Author: curiosikat

Writer, editor, linguist, social historian...

4 thoughts on “Copying versus inspiration”

  1. I agree that everything I write just like any writer is from a combination of many influences – things I’ve read or seen or heard. I do not think any one writer writes everything born entirely from themselves. I like to think of a writer as a conduit, a channel – all you have to do is express the ideas in your head in a sensible and interesting way. And that is not the same as copying someone’s ideas or rewriting chunks of someone’s work. I believe everyone has unique talent in storytelling and that’s what we are. This one was a nice read though. http://www.livingitlight.wordpress.com

  2. I agree that everything I write just like any writer is from a combination of many influences – things I’ve read or seen or heard. I do not think any one writer writes everything born entirely from themselves. I like to think of a writer as a conduit, a channel – all you have to do is express the ideas in your head in a sensible and interesting way. And that is not the same as copying someone’s ideas or rewriting chunks of someone’s work. I believe everyone has unique talent in story telling and that’s what we are. This one was a nice read though. http://www.livingitlight.wordpress.com

  3. Totally know what you mean here! Sometimes it can be really overwhelming going around and looking and what everyone else is doing. Sometimes before I write, I have to go through a period of not reading other ‘stuff’ – the time depends on what I am trying to write.

    Thanks for sharing, clicked through from NPF 🙂

  4. I know precisely what you mean. I believe it is the greatest flattery, to want to emulate a writer’s style. In fact it is a common exercise in writing classes and gives an aspiring writer the feel for how a style works and why. For example, one exercise I have tried is to try to emulate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in particular his tendency to long spun-out , meaningful sentences that are a story in themselves and take the reader on a rambling journey. Long sentences have the power to hypnotize. This was not an easy task but it taught me a lot, especially when combined with other technical sentence suggestions, such as this one, by Roy Peter Clark in his book Writing Tools: Tool 2 – Order Words for Emphasis (p. 15) – here he suggests a 2-3-1 model for sentences where “the most emphatic words and images go at the end, the next most emphatic at the beginning, and the least emphatic in the middle” (p.17). And Tool 7 – Fear Not the Long Sentence (p.36) where he suggests that “Until the writer tries to master the long sentence, she is no writer at all”. He then goes on to explain the hows of it.

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