Where do you get your ideas from?

A lot of people like to use the phrase, ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ when talking about thinkers – particularly scientists who have built up a legendary career of invention and innovation from the meagre beginnings of studying their predecessors.

Writing, I think, is a little bit different. Not too far removed, but standing on shoulders doesn’t quite fit. Rather than picking up where the literary giants of the past left off, it’s more that you’re required to pick bits and pieces from the work that came before you, jumble them all around, then stitch them back together, interspersed with your own personal reflections and optional witty banter.

So here is my preferred phrase:

NB: Not thrown out for being bad, they just had extra copies, as you do.

NB: Not thrown out for being bad, they just had extra copies, as you do.

It isn’t so much ‘stealing’ as it is creative recycling, or perhaps borrowing. Anyway, so long as you’re ‘meta’ enough about it, no one should mind.
It certainly isn’t a bad habit. This is what writing is. You take all the things you know about and you juggle and spin around and drop the less interesting ones, then you’ve got your own unique story. Even Willy Shakes did it!

Alternatively, you can creatively recycle current fiction instead and come up with a cheap Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey knock off. C’mon, man, everybody’s doing it…



2 comments on “Where do you get your ideas from?

  1. The fact that everybody’s doing it is both a problem and an enticement. The allure is easy to understand. The problem that arises is best expressed in the voicebox analogy. Everyone has one of those too but we can’t all sing. Recycling literary materials is similar. There’s an art to that too. Some folks can make their collages sing. I’m aiming for pitch-perfect tonalities, but I’m still just a pitchy warbler, not even Paula would be kind to my audition, I fear.

    • liewithstyle says:

      Nice observation. I do believe that a lot of the ‘art’ of it can be learned and improved if practised enough, but there’s certainly a bit of raw talent required as well. Just like anything – sport, and as you say, singing, there’s a spark to it that perhaps it isn’t possible to teach. I really like that voicebox analogy. Though I do wonder if it’s easier to identify ‘good’ singing than it is good writing, which no one seems to be able to agree on.
      And don’t say that, I reckon you sing like a nightingale in spring.

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