Someone I greatly respect as an artist and storyteller once said he considered plagiarism to be the sincerest form of flattery and that it didn’t bother him because unlike the thief, he could always create more. On the other hand this very artist suffered from those that would steal his thunder and wanted to share the rarified sky and clouds with those whose feet walked above their own uninspired heads. The fact is that they were counterfeits and that the truth lay in his belief that he could always ‘create more’. It is the creativity itself that is the gift, not the individual piece.
I bring this up because one of the interesting features of sharing your writing online, whether it is a blog or at a site like Pan Historia, is this electronic act of trust. I’m putting it out there, assuming no one will take it. Of course it seems to be hubris to think anyone would, but it’s always a risk, however seemingly bizarre.
There was once a writer at Pan who was fairly good. I invited her to create a collaborative novel in order to help the site grow a community of writers beyond the standard historical or fan-based fiction. She created a whole fantasy world for her writers and I was pretty impressed. Then one day she decided to pull the plug on it because she decided she wanted to be a published author and someone might steal her material. The shock, at the time, was profound for me.
First I was very surprised that she considered the possibility of theft quite seriously, and the second that after months of working with other writers she would yank the framework from the tapestry they had built together out from under them. This being the early days of Pan it was simple enough to make sure it didn’t happen again through policies adopted, but I have never quite forgot it. It had an impact on me because I share my work all the time. I cast it out to the universe with each key stroke. I have no manuscripts lying under the bed, gathering dust, that I jealously guard.
Almost every single word I write is, in actual fact, published. Some may languish unseen in forums so old and dusty that the page never receives a call from a casual mouse click, or may have even disappeared from pixelated virtual reality all together, but every character of it has been shared. In all that unmitigated personal hubris (the assumption that anyone else would care to read it) I have never had cause to worry that anyone else was lifting it and trying to make it their own. If it came to a day when I wanted to see my words become ink upon a page – well I can write more.
Words flow outwards to the sea.
I don’t believe they should be dammed or ideas and creativity grows stagnant. You may only be a small creek, and it may only run with quick cold water after the spring thaw, but don’t impede it, and don’t consider it so precious that it grows thick and turgid with algae until it dries up completely and not even a lonely frog can find a home.
And if once those flowing words reach that great swollen ocean to mingle with all the waters of the world so that you fear that you will lose them, remember words are timeless. Who knows what shore they will one day cast up on to inspire again?
Let creativity leave and breathe. What do they say? If you love a thing… let it go.