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This question rather stems from my last question about inspiration vs copying from another authors work. While the suggestions I got there haven't completed resolved my issues and doubts, they have started me thinking differently about it.

As a recap, this whole issue started when I read a piece of fiction that moved me in ways a piece of writing never had done before. It was fresh, it was exciting, it was groundbreaking writing in a way I had never considered. And maybe that was my problem. Could I have been too close to it when I wanted to start writing it?

A few people have suggested that waiting for the idea to chill down before even thinking about writing it could be an idea to try. Which I certainly didn't do and maybe lead to my stewing over it and over analysing how it was written instead of being able to sit down and write it.

All I do know is that this seems to have lead to an almost phobic response when I try to read this piece or even see a link or an advert for it accidentally, usually in my hastily shutting that page down. Which I know I'm reinforcing but honestly I'm scared to read it in case the feelings of doubt about it come back. Has anyone been through anything like this? Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. White.

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    Not exactly sure what you're asking here. Are you talking about writer's block on your own work? Fear of copying someone else's? Nov 12, 2016 at 14:17
  • A little of both. As well as a little fear of even reading the piece that inspired me because I can't help this feeling every time I read it that I could never write anything like it
    – White S.
    Nov 13, 2016 at 7:46

3 Answers 3

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My Personal Experience with Copy-Phobia

I know exactly what you're talking about.

Because I had exactly the same thing. For example, I love the video game Dark Souls 3 very much, and I took it as inspiration for my own writing. I heavily inspired a character arc based of 'Anri of Astora', but I didn't exactly copy it or steal it. I kept thinking that my writing was too similar because I was taking too much inspiration, and critics would jump all over me if I ever got it published.

However, as I started to write, and I continued to write, I realised that my work became more disconnected from it and realised that perhaps I shouldn't have been scared.

Let me give you another real example. This is likely what is going on with you, because you sound like you are currently viewing your inspiration as you try to write.

I hold Justin Cronin's The Passage and the rest of the series very close to my heart. Obviously, because of that, I took loads of inspiration from it. I thought that 'oh my god, I have the same kind of foreshadowing' and 'oh my god, I have unnamed that's similar to The Twelve'. I had these thoughts and feelings while I was reading the series. The second I finished the trilogy, a few months after that of continued work on my writing, I realised that actually, my work wasn't that similar. I realised that because I'd taken so much inspiration from so many sources it couldn't possibly be similar.

I actually think a lot of that happened while I couldn't differentiate between copying and inspiration.

How Not to Have Copy-Phobia

My main point is:

Take inspiration from many sources. Mix, create, devise, just throw in tons of inspiration. It'll be great!

And then, just write. Do not think you can get past this problem without actually writing. You are going to have to write at some point, and from writing, you will come to the realisation that you are not copying exactly and your work is fine. I know you will because I did.

Here's another thing that has happened in my personal experience with a similar problem to the one you have:

Read something, and later read something better. It almost always happens.

I think that's self explanatory enough.

The Big Question

How do I know that if I start writing, I won't just be copying? How can I actually start writing?

Okay, there isn't really a way around this. But seriously. As long as your not copying these things:

  • Names
  • Exactly copying story arcs
  • Place names
  • Basically copying it exactly

You're fine. I think that just because this work was groundbreaking, doesn't necessarily mean that you have to copy it precisely to make yours groundbreaking. Taking inspiration from something is totally fine.

You need to just write. I cannot stress this enough: it is fine to take inspiration!!!

I hope my personal experience with this problem helped you. Trust me, you will overcome it. You'll realise it as you write. I don't believe you can realise this before writing, you can only realise it during writing. By the way, please leave a comment telling me what that groundbreaking work is. I'm really interested now and want to read it. I might even take a bit as... inspiration! :P


Edit:

As Thomas Myron said, just write anything. You ought to get yourself used to writing and used to the thought of inspiration and copying. Just write your fears, perhaps even write what you did today. A great way to be able to actually bring yourself to start is to be really into writing, having the ability to see your own writing and realise that its fine and groundbreaking in its own way.

Another good technique that Thomas didn't mention is to OBSESS over what you're writing. This is really good because it helps you get into your own ideas and story rather than someone else's.

Also, you could get some more insight from: What are some tricks for managing debilitating writing anxiety/phobia?

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    Excellent answer. I would add that if you're scared to write, you might try just writing, period. Write something else. Anything else. Write about your fears, if it helps. The point is that by writing, you get yourself used to just doing it. When you sit down to write your book, you'll be able to look at it as something that isn't in stone, changeable, and therefore not to be feared. Nov 12, 2016 at 17:32
  • Ah, I really like your ideas. Thanks for contributing to my answer, @ThomasMyron Nov 12, 2016 at 17:42
  • I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one to have gone through this. And what you say does help me a little. I'm going to try and put some of it into practice.
    – White S.
    Nov 13, 2016 at 12:46
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Honestly, if you have not yet the read the writer who makes you say, oh no, I will never ever be able to be that good, you are not ready to start writing. Despair has to be the starting point, because only despair at imitation will break you out of the beginner's habit of pastiche and hesitation and get you to the point where you can do something that is genuinely your own.

It may not be immediately obvious at the time it happens, but that despair is liberating. Once you get past it, you will no longer be intimidated, nor will you feel the need to imitate, any other writer you read. Then you can be yourself, which may be good, bad, or indifferent, but will at least be you.

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  • That's an interesting way of looking at it. And I have most certainly read the writer that makes me feel that way. I wouldn't say despair, at least not on its own. Despair with a mix of inadequacy, frustration and confusion might be closer to the mark. So, you are saying that I need to get closer to what in effect scares me? Not break it down and pick it apart piece by piece, but just read it and get used to it instead of hiding away from it? Cause that is what I have been doing, if I'm honest
    – White S.
    Nov 14, 2016 at 11:47
  • Creative despair is a mix of inadequacy, frustration, and confusion. :-) While I can't say for sure what will get you out of your own creative funk, what I would recommend is reading widely and reading up. If reading Steinbeck puts you in a creative funk, read Conrad and Dickens and Austen and Twain, and Laurence. The first glimpse of the face of unattainable greatness is terrifying. But somehow bathing it is liberating and joyous.
    – user16226
    Nov 14, 2016 at 15:09
  • I'd like to think I could. But I'm going to take your advice. Try to give my mind something else to focus on.
    – White S.
    Nov 14, 2016 at 18:53
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One solution is to try and write a story backwards...literally.

Obliterate the very idea of making sense and this helps me at least to think in terms of creating and not so much writing...thus being called "not yours" or stolen.

There is nothing wrong at all with creating in the mold of another but yes the eternal struggle of copy/paste is the bane of every artist's existence.

"How do I make this my own story"...especially when it's not about you or your personal life is very hard. I wish you luck. Perhaps something fortuitous will happen...

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