I admit it. I am a thief.
Last week I stole the topic for my Monday column. You might think that I would be ashamed but I am not. Actually, I am rather proud of stealing from the best.
After reading an article on the topic of bad writing by Mark Nicol on his excellent Daily Writing Tips blog, I thought, â€œHey, thatâ€™s such a great topic, I want to write about that too.â€
So I stole it.
I took his topic and borrowed a few of his ideas then I made them my own by using my own words and adding my own insights.
Had I copied his words without wrapping them in quotes that would be the worst sin a writer can commit, plagiarism.
Even if I had cleverly rearranged his words, it would still be plagiarism.
I am not a legal expert nor am I experienced in the publishing field but from the reading I have done, you cannot own or copyright an idea, only the execution of an idea.
If that is true, is it then okay to steal someone elseâ€™s ideas and put them in your own words? On that the law might get murky - but the ethics remain crystal clear. If you do it, it is only ethical and courteous to acknowledge where the ideas came from. That is why, even though 90% of my column last week was original content and all of the words were my own, I still included a hat-tip (h/t) link to Mark Nicolâ€™s work at the bottom.
But all this brings up an interesting question. What are writers free to steal?
When you think about it, writers are voracious readers. Â In fact we are so voracious that for many of us, reading becomes a major source of life experience. In that sense, much of what we write comes from other writers, even when we think it doesnâ€™t.
Writers are like sponges, we absorb everything around us, and in truth most of us have no notion where our ideas come from. We may swear it is our muse. But if that is the case Â where did our muse get her ideas?
You have to believe that much of our inspiration comes from a blend of characters, scenes and ideas we read about years ago.
That is how the mind works.
So why not embrace this process?
If you want to become a better writer, go ahead and steal styles, scenes, characters and descriptions from the best - but also take the time and put in the effort to make them all your own.
If you do this enough consciously, it becomes subconscious - and that is what we call the muse.
(h/t Mark Nicol atÂ Daily Writing Tips)
This weekâ€™s writing challenge: write a piece based on something you have read.
- Write a piece of fan-fiction.
- Write a fractured fairy tale by twisting the plot.
- Write a scene from a famous novel or film but make it come out the way you always wanted it to.
Post your article toÂ Gather Writing Essentials.
BE SURE TO TAG your submission withÂ MWE. Â Note: I search for articles using the tag "MWE" Â If you don't tag it right,Â I will not find it.
- Include "Monday Writing Essential" in your title.
Last weekâ€™s writing challenge write a tale about hubris drew the following responses:
Weekly reminder: don't forget to recommend an article that you like (to learn why, read Ann Marcaida's article Attract More Writers and Artists to Gather!).. Â Also try to place a comment on at least one article and say more than you liked the piece. Â Tell the author what worked and what needs work.