Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.”
― T.S. Eliot


There is a fine line here. And most writers walk it fairly well. But when does inspiration trip into plagiarism. Is stealing ideas quite the same as stealing language? Outright plagiarism of course is completely contemptible, and easily identifiable too. Lifting a paragraph from somewhere, passing it off as your own,not crediting the author …and all that terribly mundane stuff that commonplace writers do. What is subtle, and impossible to pinpoint is the adroit lifting of ideas. After all, aren’t there meant to be only seven basic plots to begin with, and everything else is a permutation of these?

Good writing is always inspired writing. And inspiration can come from anywhere. There are times that I have read a story, been impressed with the style, and tried to experiment with my own in a similar vein.Yet, putting one’s own stamp on a piece of work, regardless of where the original idea came from, is the hallmark of a decent writer.

To think of all the movies, books and plays that have been inspired by Shakespeare. The ones that stand out a) credit the source material and b) soar beyond the source material, to connect to their audience at a very fundamental level. Vishal Bhardwaj, an Indian director, has transplanted Shakespeare’s tragedies, into the Indian milieux and context, with enormous success. His latest, “Haider”, has a dithering Hamlet like protagonist, unable to move beyond his father’s death, to connect with what is happening to his beloved Kashmir.

And then, of course, you have the satirical plagiarism. Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” being parodied by Sir-Mix-A-Lot, whose “Baby got back”, her song is inspired (!) by anyway. Convoluted? Yes. But what goes around, seems to come right back around.

Ultimately, let that which inspires you, be a springboard to your own creation. For it to truly become yours, it’s what you do with it that matters. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then by all means imitate. But cloak it with your words, your unique tenor, and you may be on your way to having a halfway respectable piece of work to claim as your own.

(This blog post was inspired by another, more astute one!)



  1. Im sure Eliots quote is mostly in jest, but I dont like it lol.

    Music is different to writing in terms of ‘inspiration’, remixing etc is a viable and accepted form an offshoot of a larger whole.
    Writing just doesnt have that, i think originality is really cherished in stories, the same way it is in art.
    It would be tough to plagiarise 1984 without it being blatant, however it has spawned or inspired hundreds of stories based on a similar premise, but every writer brings (or should) their own take on characters plot etc.
    Thanks for the many blog visits also!

    1. Always great to hear from you too! I agree- music has been shamelessly plagiarised in India though- with little recompense to the original artistes! And I’m not talking remixes here.😊
      But broadly, each of us finds ourselves imitating someone or something at some point. It is at this point we have to decide how far to go. I’m not endorsing plagiarism, just suggesting that be smart about how or what you copy. If copy you must.
      Thanks for your comments Lion. Always enjoy reading your posts!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s