Imitate the Greats Instead of Re-Inventing the Wheel
By Ruth Barringham
Sometimes, it's easy to waste time trying to come up with a completely new idea of what to write about.
It's a noble thing to want to be the first to have a great idea, write it out and then publish it. The problem though, is that most of the great ideas have already be thought about and written about.
So how do you come up with an idea of your own?
The answer is to imitate the great ideas instead of trying to re-invent the wheel.
What I mean by that is, say that you have a great idea for an article or an ebook you want to write. So you go online and start researching your topic.
You come across some amazing things written by other writers. Some of their ideas you'd already thought of and you find other new ideas that you hadn't considered and are brilliant.
So you gather all this information, organise it coherantly into one document and rewrite it as your own. And when I say rewrite it as your own, I mean you write it your own way. You don't copy someone else's work word for word.
Is there anything wrong with doing this?
Not at all. Just because some of the original ideas weren't yours, it doesn't mean you can't write about them.
Or you might read a book and think that the ideas were great but they weren't written in the best way.
So you set about writing out what you've learned from the book, re-using the ideas you just read and putting your own personal opinions and additional ideas into it as well.
Doing this means you've written a book about the knowledge you had in your head. It may have been from something you just read, but if you write it out your own way, then it's yours.
When musicians write music, they aren't playing musical notes that no one else has ever done before. On the contrary, most musicians are influenced by famous musicians who have come before them and they take their inspiration from them.
So they're not coming up with new ideas. They're using what has been done before to create something new.
Artists are the same. They see the work of another artist and are inspired to create similar works of art. But they don't copy the work of others. They are simply being inspired to create their own unique version of what already exists.
And it's the same with writers.
There's nothing wrong with imitating a writer whose work you admire, and being inspired by their style of writing.
And just because someone else has already written about a great idea that you had as well, doesn't mean that you still can't write about it, put your own personal touch to it and make it your own. If you write it your own, unique way, it may end up not even resembling someone else's work in the slightest.
That’s becasue we are all like funhouse mirrors. Each mirror will see the same thing in a different way. We can look at the same thing but see it differently too, so that when we write about it, even if it's on exactly the same subject/idea that someone else has already written about, we make it radicaly different.
Read the article by Derek Sivers on this same subject at https://sivers.org/mirror for more insight.
Also take a look at Steal Like a Writer by Austin Kleon at https://austinkleon.com/2012/07/26/steal-like-a-writer/. He calls it "creative theft" and there's nothing wrong with that.
He shows you how and where to find inspiration and "borrow" from it.
So don't be afraid to mirror or imitate good ideas from great writers.
If it makes you feel better you can use the tag line "inspired by...".
Just don't stifle your creativity with worry about using someone else's idea.
Grab it quick and make it your own.
Just like I did with this article.