IWSG February 4, 2015

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

The first Wednesday of the month is the time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. This is the once-a-month blog hop started by Alex J. Cavanaugh .

IWSG = Insecure Writers’ Support Group (click for the link).  We share our insecurities and support each other with empathy, sympathy and  practical suggestions. 

Visit the site – and visit the co-hosts:
Gwen Gardner, Dolorah, Sarah Foster, and M. Pax!

This month I’m talking about ‘Clone Wars’.  Not the Star Wars type.  I mean the fear people have about copying others.  Bec0ming too much like others, losing their sense of who they, themselves, are.  Getting overwhelmed by something that causes them to lose their voices.

We are told that writers need to read.  That writers who do not read end up shriveling up and blowing away.  So we must read.  Read a lot, read widely, read to enjoy, read to learn, read in order to learn how to write, much as an apprentice used to sit and watch the Master make a masterpiece.

And at the same time, we are cautioned against plagiarism.  Now, I am absolutely against plagiarism.  I have seen some shocking examples lately from groups that expose plagiarism.  Often, someone has cut and pasted something from fanfiction.  You can’t do things  like that.  It is illegal, immoral and stupid.  But what of the person who encounters a way of looking at things, a way of describing things, that he or she embraces wholeheartedly and seeks to imitate.  Not copy: imitate.


But what if you find something so overpoweringly fabulous, you end up lost in it, overwhelmed by it,  transfixed by it to the point that you can’t say what you want to say, feel as you think you ought.  You are stunned, almost like someone who has fallen in love at first sight.  I remember the almost stammering reaction I had to the magnificent end of the third episode of Star Wars  (not the prequels – don’t get me started on them).  I felt breathless.

So…  it could be bad.  But it could be good.  Okay, I get that – but why is it so important?  What could I possibly gain from that – and what do I stand to lose?
What do you stand to lose?
I think of the great books I’ve read, some of which are actually acknowledged to be great books. Watership Down, Eagle in the Snow, The Lord of the Rings, The Rose of Old St. Louis (not a classic book, but an indispensable), The Dean’s Watch, Green Dolphin Street,  and many more.  They made me see things with new eyes, to stand back and evaluate how I felt about tings, what moved me.  Some left me breathless.  With each of them I felt as though I were looking at my world through new eyes. 
Did I feel overwhelmed?  Not really.  I think it was more a feeling of finding what was right, what was true. 
I found a quote I love:

“Expose yourself to excellence, and you will be excellent. Expose yourself to mediocrity, and you will be mediocre. Read the right books, watch the right shows, eat the right foods and engage with the right people. The rest is just a distraction from excellence.”

13 comments on “IWSG February 4, 2015

  1. randi lee says:

    Expose yourself to excellence and you will be excellent…..I am definitely going to remember that one!!!

  2. Beth says:

    I have to agree, and you've inspired me to search for books of excellence. While I've learned from reading stories I didn't like (note to self: never introduce a prime suspect in the last quarter of the book) learning what not to do isn't enough. I need to expose myself to a higher standard.

  3. I love that quote. 🙂 I have learned to look for my way to present a story so that I'm neither copying or being too derivative of something else.

  4. Wonderful post. Sure gives me something to think about. When a brilliant, well a good idea, comes my way and sounds familiar, I sometimes wonder if I've read it before. Great quote. Thanks.

  5. Gwen Gardner says:

    Excellent quote! Now I'm going to write down the names of those books you mentioned that I haven't read yet. Thank you!Gwen Gardner, IWSG Co-host and new follower!

  6. Jenni Enzor says:

    Love your quote! I think it's hard to find the balance. I like to read books like mine just to see what's already been done, so I know my story is original. But sometimes when I'm stuck I read books like mine, so I can see how another author solved the same problems.Yes, you need to be true to yourself, that is being original. But there are no new stories, so you can make yourself crazy trying to avoid copying others.

  7. Yvette Carol says:

    That's wonderful, Diana, and I agree with Gwen about the quote. That's a goodie. Is it ok if I borrow it? :-)A lovely post and I love the way books do that to you too, as they should. My writing teacher said that a book should be like a mirror and a window, reflecting us to ourselves and allowing us to see out into another world as well! 🙂

  8. Stewart O'Nan said, “Writer's are voracious reader's driven to simulation.” Agreed! 😉

  9. Cherdo says:

    I absolutely love that quote and I am going share it with my students (who are horrified at the reading list for world lit.). Have a great weekend.

  10. Love this! Thank you.(smile)

  11. What an inspiring post, Diana. You've made me want to up my reading level. Have a nice weekend!

  12. Lexa Cain says:

    I agree so much with your last quote. We should all find those writers who inspire us and who we'd like to emulate – but we have to appreciate our own unique voices, too. Great post!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Sometimes I worry about picking up things from other books I've read and unknowingly using similar ideas in my stories. Like the quote says, though, I try my best to keep my own voice. Here's to surrounding ourselves with excellence!

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