Plagiarism

Sometimes people are charged with plagiarism when it was unintentional.

Not for those instances when segments are reproduced word for word for several pages but in other times, shorter passages, and even ideas.

Newton is credited with the old saw about seeing further than his contemporaries because he stood on the shoulders of giants.

He probably paraphrased an earlier quote that was quite similar. It does not mean it wasn’t his thought.

Many times in history we have seen parallel creations going on at the same time.

And we have all heard that imitation is the sincerest form of respect.

Still, after reading a lot one can find it difficult to recall exactly where certain thoughts came from.

Citation becomes impossible. Nor should it be a big deal.

It is the nature of human thinking to latch onto a thought that resonates with us and we may carry it around as part of our psyche for years before it is put to paper perhaps in a phrasing different from the original but in some wording more peculiarly our own.

This does not mean it cannot be construed as an “original thought” – many assume there are no such, anyway – but it can be claimed as one’s on if stated differently.

Avid readers often have this problem.

When younger, I kept a bibliography of all the books I had read for several years. Later I lost track of the list and the urge to keep track of such things but when I came across the pages many years later I was amazed to see the list topped out just over twelve hundred volumes.

That’s a lot of books!

And I can guarantee that bits and pieces of many of them have found their way into my own writing. A thought here, a phrase there, but (hopefully!) no fully developed stories.

It is the nature of writing that we use words that are already in use and some of them seem to string together nicer than others.

Of course, when too many writers string the same words together it becomes cliche and anathema in subsequent writings. Such as using “golden orb” to describe the Sun. *shudder*

We cannot help but mimic what we know, what we learn, even if certain combinations of ideas seem “original” or “unique” by some readers.

Even some of the best modern writers fall into the trap of “repeating themselves” with characters, situations, events, and even whole sections of dialogue from one of their books to another.

Yes, they plagiarize themselves.

We shouldn’t take it so hard if we seem to accomplish the same but we should strive to veer away from that slippery slope.

(And I sincerely hope I have not posted something similar before!)



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