Take These Words

I was in two minds about writing this post. It wasn’t a terribly palatable thing to write about (not for a would-be writer). The trouble is, I am compelled to jot down what I see in my world around me; my reality. I mean, it isn’t the law – nobody will shoot me in the head if I don’t record every little thing that occurs. But I feel it’s my duty to document these things. Plus, I needed something to write about…because it’s Saturday. Y’know, ‘blog day’ waits for no man. Or woman…

When you write a book, which I once did in a distant past, you can’t just publish it and lie back on your chaise longue eating grapes for the rest of your life (I’ve tried). Self-published and published authors alike need to get out there in the virtual world and…y’know, mix a bit. Therefore, over the months I have built up an impressively large network in the writing community. The writer me, Adele, is everywhere; Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter (and lots of other places that don’t really help to drive traffic to the blog, so I frequent them less). The writer me is annoyingly prevalent. I annoy myself with my shameless publicising, anyway. However, ninety-five percent of those social media friends I have made along the way, I’ve never met. Some I converse with, some I don’t. I’m making it sound like it’s a distasteful process, but that’s not true; I enjoy it. I enjoy the camaraderie. Some of those social media friends I would very happily go down the pub with. And writing can be a lonely business – it’s nice to know we are all in the same boat. But we are all writers who can’t give up the day job, touting our wares on the social circuit. Or perhaps I should just speak for myself. Anyway, I should cut to the chase. It’s about time. Very recently, across my social media patch (and even though it’s a small patch, it encompasses writers from every corner of the globe), one writer accused another writer of stealing and publishing his and many others’ stories. I know, yikes.

Plagiarism is a terrible thing. I do not make light of it. There’s just no defence for it. Writing is hard work; it’s an art form and you either get it very right or you get it very wrong (like I often do). But the creation you’ve made is yours – even if it’s crap. Plagiarism is theft. But this post isn’t really about the details of that unsavoury occurrence; who did what to whom. It’s not my place (unfortunately the evidence was pretty damning, so it looks as though some form of plagiarism went on). It just made me stop and think. So what I really want to discuss is ‘why?’. Why would one person want to take the words from the imagination of another? What sense of personal achievement and pride could one possibly take from passing off another’s work as one’s own?

Personally, it’s something I could never even contemplate doing for a multitude of reasons. A) The writing community is very small and you’d inevitably get caught. B) Writing is about giving of yourself; tentatively offering your fictional or non-fictional story to a world that may or may not actually want to read it. C) There’s no money in writing. Trust me, I know. I couldn’t even buy a nice pair of shoes with what I’ve made so far. Even brilliant writers make no money – only the lucky few do. So what I’m saying is, there’s no point in stealing the ideas and imagery of another, as there is literally no payoff whatsoever.

When this depressing news broke, not for one millisecond did I ever worry about my work being stolen. Not for a millisecond. I mean, who would want to? Ha-ha-ha! No really, I’m serious, who would want to? The writing that was allegedly lifted was clever, full of depth; pretty adroit stuff. Hence why I’m fairly certain my work is safe. I made a conscious decision many moons ago to just be myself. I’m pretty sure I write as though I’m just having a chat, in a sing-song manner, flagrantly messing with the English language, using colloquialisms and expressions that I would use in my everyday life. Like this tosh here that you’re forced to read on a weekly basis on this blog. My books are written in a similar vein (I’m really selling myself, aren’t I?). Unless you came from exactly the same place as me, had the same upbringing, have exactly the same neuroticism and off-beat humour, you’d be pretty stupid to want to pass my stuff off as your own. I’m not saying I’m superoriginal or one-of-a-kind. In many respects, I’m ten-a-penny. One thing is for sure though, I don’t write Pulitzer Prize-winning stuff. I perhaps don’t have the tools that some of the great writers do. Or at least, I have the tools, but some of them are missing. I must have left my toolbox in the van overnight and it was broken into – and my most expensive tools were stolen. Shall I stop with the tool analogy now? Yes, I think I will.

I’m not talking about writing books in the same ilk as another (although it’s always best to be original). I’m not talking about fan faction either (although that’s pretty weird). I’m certainly not talking about recycling the odd word. God, I read books on my Kindle all the time and find a word that I just like the sound of (I tend to press and hold on said word [don’t you just love Kindles?] because I sometimes don’t quite know what said word means – give me a break, I’m a Cockney). But that word is then assimilated into my vocabulary. And then it’s as though I’ve always had that word in my arsenal – I just couldn’t find it before. It’s healthy to learn a new word every day and I hope to keep learning until I’m old – words like ‘insouciance’. Mmm, I like it. Insouciance. When I looked it up, it meant just what I’d hoped – and then I artlessly crow-barred it into my books at will. Words are free. Words belong to everybody. Sentences and paragraphs don’t. Your phrasing, your diction, your imagery – that really ought to belong only to you.

Still, it’s an interesting lesson that everything you put out there on the Internet is theoretically up for grabs (not my stuff – but decent writer’s stuff, you understand). Once that work is floating around cyberspace and you forget all about it, move on to pastures new – in time your work could be reused, and refashioned cleverly into something else. And what could you possibly do about it if that happened? Nothing. Most of us can’t afford to get lawyered-up. And the average plagiarist won’t have made enough money to compensate you if you did. My books, for instance, stem from ideas I had as a teenager. I can prove it; I have stacks of exercise books filled with my spidery, pretentious teenage writing. But prove it to whom? Who would listen?

I hope I haven’t been too flippant, made a mockery of what is a serious subject. I can’t help writing in this random, innocuous way – that’s what I do (copyright 2015). It must be a terrible thing to  happen to a writer and a difficult crime to prove. I’d be heartbroken. Writing isn’t always a tangible thing – it’s not like somebody stole your car. In a way, it’s worse. That lovingly crafted thing you created – that was your baby. And somebody took your baby and pretended it was their baby. Unforgivable. Your voice is only your voice. There is absolutely no justifiable excuse for taking that away from someone. Like I always say, writing is the painting of the voice.

(I have literally never said this).

PS: Sorry about my last sentence, but I can’t resist a good gag. Or any gag really.

PPS: Oh, could somebody please bring back my tools? I really need them…



22 thoughts on “Take These Words

  1. I wrote this exact essay 14 years ago…when I say wrote…I thought this 14 years ago…get out of my head! Stealing thoughts is worse, although it is nice to see it written down now, good job

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My work would only get ripped off by an ESL (English Second Language) plagiarist, I’m sure. I am safe. Some great points though, with software that can dredge the Web for plagiarism as well as copyright infringement on photos, another huge market of lawyers has opened up. Great post Adele!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I believe in originality. Sometimes, I notice trends with books that are some sort of copycatting. I recently learned that there is a whole genre of cat mysteries. I think Lilian Jackson Braun was the first to write mysteries where cats were important characters that were somehow involved with unraveling the mystery. I don’t know if it’s considered plagiarism alone to borrow from this idea, but it’s too close to plagiarism for my liking. I also see other trends in mystery books where there are several series by different authors where the amateur sleuth is in some sort of food business and the titles are all puns on food and mystery. I started to like one mystery series and then found another series by another author that is in a different setting, but the story structure and main ideas were heavily, heavily borrowed from the first. I felt conflicted, because I liked both series, but the second series felt plagiaristic.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thoughtful post, as always. As someone who has, literally, thousands of posts out there across various blogs and platforms, I have had my work “re-engineered” by folks who have no qualms about doing such, with no attribution whatsoever. And as you point out, there is little you can do unless you have an army of lawyers at your disposal. (I don’t have that kind of petty cash just lying around the house.) So you just have to make the best of it and be content that someone thought your words were worth stealing, and hope that at the end of the day the credit finally falls where it should…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is terrible, Brian. I’m shocked at how prevalent this practise is, and happening to people I speak to every day on social media – like you. And it’s all money-driven. It does make you lose faith in humanity a tad. Hope this never happens to you again 😔.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautiful writing. The world is full of copycats and that’s how the world works. Yes, it pained me when i see someone else plagiarizing my articles but i’ve learned one thing: This world is so temporary and you bet their so called happiness in being fake is even shorter than their wrong sense of fulfillment. When we’re gone, none of these things would really matter. So keep writing and enjoy every minute of it. Thanks Adele, i always enjoy reading your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well written Adele. What a disturbing thought; having something as precious as one’s own words stolen! Once again, I love the way you express yourself … It resonates with the writer tucked deep inside me.
    I’m trying to unwrap her after years of neglect, it’s a slow process and I’ve forgotten most of the rules and laws that hold written English together.
    I guess I’m at the stage of looking through my toolbox in a cobwebbed attic, discovering they were made of plastic and the rats have eaten ate most of them.
    It’s never to late to learn again though.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Plagiarism. Even I’m not too bothered by it, by I hate people who do that. It’s like stealing something from a person that’s probably is not thought worth the millions of dollars to the world, but for the person it’s nothing less, if not more.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m a newbie to WordPress and have just recently found your blog, so I’m coming late to the conversation.
    “I made a conscious decision many moons ago to just be myself. I’m pretty sure I write as though I’m just having a chat, in a sing-song manner, flagrantly messing with the English language, using colloquialisms and expressions that I would use in my everyday life” – That is what I enjoy about reading your blog! You’re so natural and fun … I’d meet you at the pub if I lived there 😉
    I have a relative that has stolen words and used them in letters. I think he has a few tools missing from a different part of the brain…if you know what I mean. That is about the only reason I can come up with for stealing someone else’s words. This person has done many other things that added with the word stealing have led me to that conclusion. Sadly, I think he came that way and his tools weren’t stolen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do you know, you were citing me above and I completely didn’t realise (other than a vague recollection of the words)😂! What is wrong with me? Ha ha! I do worry about plagiarism and so many others I know virtually have had it happen to them. So it could happen to you or I too (but I’m so forgetful about what I’ve written, I probably wouldn’t notice!😉). Anyway, thanks for reading and I hope you’re enjoying your WordPress blogging experience (I don’t know why I’m saying that, they never pay me anything!)xx😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I put quotation marks on your words…that makes it OK doesn’t it? I don’t want to steal your words…just enjoy them! I doubt anyone would want to steal my unprofessional stories. Your words as playful as they are, are definitely professional and I’d probably worry too. If your book or books have a similar feeling to your blog I bet it’s a good read and I’ll have to see if I can hunt them down.
        I’m enjoying WordPress but occasionally I’m mystified by the site functions/how to fix things that don’t turn out as planned. It’s a good learning thing though 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s