Writer habits- day 6: Steal

banksy
“banksy” by khrawlings on flickr

Sometimes I am paralyzed by the need to be original. Sometimes I feel like what I have to say has already been said by other people, that my words sound just like everyone else’s… except they said it better. Then the pressure starts to rise to come up with something that is mine, something that is original and fresh. Something that is unique to me. Ultimately, I am looking for something to set me apart.

In reality, I’m looking for a gimmick.

Truth is, all art is stolen: from the world around us, from other artists, from friends and family, from strangers on the street, from songs, films, TV shows, instagram, pintrest, facebook walls, twitter feeds, books, advertisements, blogs, and even from ourselves. This isn’t license to be a jerk and a hack. I’m not going to plagerize, I’m not going to call somone elses words my own. But I am going to take the ideas that move me and churn my own words out about them. Heck, this entire series is a practice of stealing Jeff Goins ideas and making them my own.

It’s ok to steal. It’s ok to take the ideas, churn them in my head, feel them in my heart, and let it shake my bones. What is going to come out is something that is mine based on someone else’s idea that was worth stealing. This idea that everything I produce has to be breathed from nothing into something from my hand makes no sense and turns the writing process into a mystical experiment in futility and perfectionism. If I am going to publicly practice my work, then I have to use the resources I find all over. The world is my library; I’m going to pick out the best words to creatively share with others.

Thinking of writing this way frees me up to just write. I don’t have the money of “pure originality” on my back. I am freed to be creative with all the resources at my disposal. To borrow (steal!) Madline L’Engle’s metaphor, I get to draw my water from the lake of creativity that has come before these words. What I create gets dumped back into the lake for someone else to use, and thus the creative cycle is completed.

I’m going to write like it’s about to be stolen. If I’m writing good words, they probably will be.