Writers as Thieves
I have seen a few articles and comics lately that talk about how writers steal ideas. It sounds a bit creepy, and it can make us remember all those lectures we got in college about the evils of plagiarism.
So, I’d like to reassure you; it is okay to borrow ideas and even steal a few when you are writing. There are a few considerations, and they are covered amply by the rules regarding plagiarism. So when does one steal?
When I find myself engrossed in a piece, I look for how the writer did it. I hope to find something to make my writing better. I plan to use it, too. Call it premeditated theft.
When I am listening to a conversation, I sometimes write down an image or a turn of phrase someone used. I don’t ask for permission, either. I compliment the speaker, and I think that is enough. Imitation, or the possibility of imitation, is a form of flattery, right? We like it when we hear, “I like that! I might use it.”
Our language community relies on borrowed and stolen ideas to function. If we didn’t have shared concepts and ways of expressing them, then we wouldn’t be able to understand each other. We would be forever asking, “What is she trying to say? I don’t get it.” So, steal with abandon. Your writing will be better for it.