When the sentient mollusks that eventually inherit the irradiated ruins of the Earth sort through my manuscripts (which will, of course, be preserved as part of the brief, glorious dominance of human culture on this rock), they will pretty much be able to guess what I was reading when I wrote certain things, because of the wholesale theft and copying. I don’t feel any shame about this—in fact, as discussed here and many other places around the web, stealing ideas and techniques from better writers is a great way to become a better writer yourself.
Something a lot of people don’t talk about much? Stealing ideas and techniques from better writers is a lot of fun.
Never Figured Out the Butterfly Knife
There’s a crazy joy you experience when you try something new and make it work. The first time you ride a bike. The first time you beat a Boss in a video game. The first time you unclasp a bra one-handed with just a flick and a twist. The first time you play with a butterfly knife to impress girls and don’t end up in the emergency room.
Add to that, the first time you play around with an unreliable narrator. The first time you pull off (or, you know, mostly pull off) a stream-of-consciousness narrative. The first time you decide that this impossible plot twist is possible … because MAGIC EXISTS.
The first time you play with a technique or idea that came from someone else’s work is exhilarating. It’s exciting stuff, because you can feel your mastery over your craft getting stronger. The best part is, since you’re working privately, on your own, you don’t have to worry about whether you were too slavish in your imitation, or if it worked at a high professional level. Sometimes it’s okay to just enjoy the moment, the breakthrough. It’s like the first time you managed to go a full block on your bike. Sure, you still fell over at the end—but you did it, and that’s all that matters.
Stealing ideas from other writers is fun. It’s thrilling. Let’s not forget that. By the time you rub off the serial numbers and make that trick part of your own repertoire, the thrill will be faded and thinned-out, and as you read more widely and work more those thrills get fewer and far between. So enjoy them when happen.
Another thrilling moment? When you realize that pants are 100% optional while writing a novel.