Wednesday, February 24, 2010

 

Can Plagiarism Be Creative?

The same week I read about a German author who is defending her plagiarism, J.K. Rowling is being mentioned in another case of an author who believes Rowling heavily borrowed from his books.
In the instance of the first case of plagiarism, the author Helene Hegemann believes that her use of another's author's work is an art form. According to the Salon article I read, Hegemann reportedly told a German newspaper: "I myself don't feel it is stealing, because I put all the material into a completely different and unique context and from the outset consistently promoted the fact that none of that is actually by me." However, as Laura Miller points out on Salon, Hegemann did not give the author of credit for the passages taken from "Strobo."
Please note that I have no first-hand knowledge of either case of alleged plagiarism, but I am interested in how reading someone else's work can or might influence my own work--maybe even creeping into my writing?
Many writers state that by reading the masters, they improved their own writing. When studying the greats, often a professor will suggest copying the words of the master to learn the cadences, word choices, and rhythms. I'm sure my novel writing career would do much better if I were to borrow heavily from the greats. I also understood that as civilization has moved along, we build on the shoulders of those who came before us. Some even argue that there are no original stories, just a re-hash of stories that have come before.
But sometimes, that line blurs. I have taught college students whose academic careers could be destroyed due to one instance of plagiarism and yet the students seem unsure what constitutes plagiarism--and why it would be such a big deal.
I think that as an exercise and to understand the world it is vitally important to be aware of the work of those who have come before. From the standpoint of creativity and our own interaction with creativity, I'm not sure that plagiarism is the best method of rising to the occasion and meeting our muse. Or is it?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, October 02, 2009

 

Shifting your writing from one type to another

When do you decide to shift your focus? When and how do you determine that this week you should focus on your fiction or your nonfiction or your paying work? And once you have decided it, how do you make it all work? Do you ever steal away for a day-long writing retreat?
As a freelancer, I've found it is sometimes tricky to shift from the paying work to the non-paying work. I'd like to write more of my own fiction, but I also work for a client that pays me per piece I complete. It certainly helped to get through this year during slower times, but it is a blessing and a curse. If I didn't have any work, I could engage my fiction muscle more; without the work, I would have to focus on getting a job to help pay for my fiction "hobby" and the kids' clothes.
But do you ever say, "I've had enough of the treadmill of someone else's writing, I need to get back to my own." Or do you just start building bits and pieces of time into your day that satisfies your own needs?
This weekend will start a new experiment for me and my family. I will get off the treadmill momentarily.
Because my fiction time seems to fall victim to sick kids or juggling family needs, I asked my husband for time to write for a project I've been fleshing out for a few months.
I will leave early Saturday morning, stealing away to an quiet corner...away from an Internet connection...in an undisclosed (to my kids) location, for a chunk of writing time. While I'm excited, I'm also worried I won't know what to do in the silence. I'm not sure we can afford to do this every Saturday, but I am certainly excited we are going to start trying to do it more regularly.
I need the time and space to work on my projects. What would you need to get off the treadmill? And, if you already have figured it out, what has worked for you?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and freelance writer. She also blogs at www.CoastalCarolinaMoms.com and www.TheWriteElizabeth.com, delving into creativity in everyday places. She'll let you know how the writing project is going next time...after her luxurious day-long writing retreat.

Labels: ,

Monday, August 10, 2009

 

Surrounded by paper...and computer keyboards

We've all been there, looking for the magic bullet of writing. Even though I've studied writing and been a reader my entire life, I think: If only I write with this pen on that notebook, I'll have a best-selling novel. My desk overflows with the fun notebooks I've picked up, in my quest for the "right" one that will inspire me to tell a story. I purchase pens that I've seen other writers use. Perhaps I've been using the wrong tools, I tell myself.
I'm fascinated with how some of writers still take pen to paper, writing longhand until their thousand-page manuscript is finished. One successful novelist told me that he wrote while feeding his infant, legal pad and pen propped between baby and bottle. With three kids, I've never quite managed that, but I have dabbled. One writer told me of his use of index cards. Shortly thereafter, I am clearing out the office supply store of its stock of legal pads and index cards. Sketches and words flow over the notepads and stray pieces of paper. But the stories remain on the pages and my computer screen remains blank because, I think, the novelists haven't worked that way. They have sold his books while I have not.
Finally, it dawns on me that instead of basing my end result on what anyone else does, I need to embrace that the notepads and scraps of paper are a part of my process. I collect the notes I've made on one project or another and create a notebook for each novel idea. When the pieces of paper overwhelm or take over my desk, I then turn to my trusty keyboard. But before I get to that point, I doodle, sketch or write plot overviews in a funky notebook picked up in a SoHo paper shop are part of my craft.
The paper and notebooks I choose become a part of my storytelling process. The story of a small boy won't appear in my flowery notebook, which, instead contains the story skeleton about romance, love and longing. But neither of them seems to come alive with just a cursor blinking at me. They need the love and support of my taking the time to play in the beginning and embrace the organic nature of a story--including the notebook as a vehicle.
Now, as a separate issue, I need to work on that success thing, which won't take the pens or notebooks of anyone else. Just me.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and freelance writer. She also blogs at CoastalCarolinaMoms.com and TheWriteElizabeth.com, where she contemplates finding creativity in everyday places She is getting ready to dive into another fun fiction project, notebook in hand.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, July 10, 2009

 

Friday Speakout: Will the Truth Really Set You Free?, Guest Post by Michelle Dwyer

Will the Truth Really Set You Free?

by Michelle Dwyer

I’ve wiped out many a box of tissues because of rejection. Rejection. Those emails with the subject line that reads: Re: Submission. Like most writers, I open the file with a sliver of hope, in the off-chance, that it is a yes. Who am I kidding? Before long, my mind starts telling me that I suck.

But now I know: That is simply not the case. Through critique groups and personal connections with other authors, I realize that the rejections are coming from my nonfiction work. Why? My niche rests in writing for a casual audience, not the starched suits that want to know about the latest in anti-virus technology or stock options.

For some reason, I felt the need to submit work to the business world, as if its approval made me good. However, after receiving feedback, I did some self-analysis (Maslow would be proud), and discovered that when I write my nonfiction pieces, I’m simply not passionate about them. They don’t evoke the emotions that my fiction stories have always done.

I love romance, chance happenings, personal growth, and sex. The stories, characters, and climaxes (pardon the pun), that come from my heart bring me to life, and allow me to create the wonder that is fiction.

So how did I end up writing about investing in the manufacturing industry and not about two people making love on the kitchen table? Answer: A warped sense of success. I saw others excel with their nonfiction work, and by golly, I was determined to be like them. How come their works were selected and not mine? For a brief time, I thought they were better than me.

It took some validation from peers for me to understand that I shine at fiction, and that I need to ease up on nonfiction. “But I’m an MBA,” I used to tell myself. “I must write articles that tell the truth.”

No. My MBA will come in handy with the business side of publishing, but my knack for creating a good story will always give me peace.

Don’t get me wrong, aspiring writers (and I am still very much aspiring) need to keep trying and never give up. I just think that all of us have a forte. Mine is creative writing. And now that I know my own truth, I will submit nonfiction pieces every now and then, while trying to hone the craft. But I won’t cry a river when I get rejected.

And now I can go back to working on my novels and other short stories. The ones I’ve neglected due to my misplaced effort at finding validity through real-life.

Who knows? I might just get an offer.


Michelle studied writing in high school and longed to become an author. But circumstances arose, causing her to join the military instead. However, she never gave up. She enrolled in writing school, finished her first crime novel, and will achieve her MBA this fall. She writes as Krymzen Hall at http://www.helium.com/users/421563/show_articles


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Labels: , , , ,