Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
Today I want to talk about something that has been on my mind a lot lately, and something that I am, surprisingly, learning quite a bit about, as if I never really understood it before --
I've written posts about being inspired, of course, and I always look for ways to become inspired, and keep inspiration flowing, but in my creative journey lately I recognized something that was holding me back from accomplishing as much as I could --
We as people shame plenty of things, many that we probably shouldn't, and some perhaps that we aren't even aware of, but it never before occurred to me before that inspiration might be one of them.
Where do your ideas come from? Other books -- films, stories passed down from your grandmother, life experiences, music, nature? What inspires you? Sometimes inspiration can seem so simple, but at other times it can also be infinitely complex, especially when we put shaming with it.
What do I mean? Have you ever read a book and thought "this sounds a lot like Harry Potter", or saw a film and thought "they ripped this off of something else"? I'm sure you have -- and I know that I have. And while these claims may be accurate in circumstances, in this post I want to focus on what these type of claims, or "shaming", can do in a creator's inspirational life.
The world of creativity can be competitive, and sometimes it's difficult to deal with, especially if you get comments like these. But when does "inspiration" become "copying", and what are some of the negative effects of taking the fear of your work being found as "too close to the original" close to heart?
First, let's start by talking a bit about what led me to write this post in the first place, a book I've been reading that really put things into perspective for me:
A few months ago, I found a beautiful old boxed set of the Chronicles of Narnia at a thrift store, and picked it up. It is, if I remember my dates correctly, one of the original boxed sets of the series, and I love it dearly. But before I sat down to read the first book in the Chronicles, I decided to read this biography of C.S. Lewis, which I had had lying around for years, waiting to be opened, first.
I'm so glad I read this book! I definitely recommend it to fans of C.S. Lewis, and to writers as well, because it may give you a new perspective on your creativity, as it did me...
The biography is really less of a traditional biography, and more of a history/theory on C.S. Lewis as an author, and what went into creating Narnia -- what inspired him.
See that word? Inspiration. It looks so small, but it has such a big importance.
Prior to starting this book, I decided to completely rework my publishing life, as you may know, going the road less traveled for many reasons. One of those, I discovered, was linked directly to my view of inspiration, and how skewed it had become. After starting "Into The Wardrobe", I began analyzing what I currently thought of inspiration, and found myself rather appalled.
It wasn't until I read about Lewis -- an author I have an extreme amount of respect for -- and some of his sources of inspiration that I realized I had come to think of inspiration not as, well, being inspired, but as stealing.
"This sounds a lot like Harry Potter."
"They must have taken this from an old film."
"They copied another classic."
"This is definitely fan fiction."
I have heard these words again and again -- and I have said them myself -- and somehow something so important to a creator has become no more than petty theft.
But in reading, I re-discovered what inspiration really is, or can be. Lewis was a well-learned scholar, and drew inspiration for Narnia from a variety of sources -- ancient myths, books he had read as a child, friend's works, life experiences, etc. Some of these inspirations were blatant, perhaps purposefully, but that doesn't mean that the end product was any less brilliant or inspired, or that plenty of work didn't go into his writings.
Think of Harry Potter, a common source for many new books' inspiration. Where did the idea come from? Surely there was some inspiring factor. I am a fan of the saying "you can't get something from nothing".
I can't say that there isn't a fine line between being inspired and stealing, because there is a fine line, one that everyone must walk and discern on their own -- but that doesn't mean that inspiration should be shamed, or that there is anything wrong with getting ideas from other works. The moment we start thinking of being inspired as "stealing", we begin to cut our hands off, and tie our creativity into a bind, because we become so afraid of looking like a fool or a cheat.
My creative writing teacher used to say: "Good authors steal well," and I understand now what she meant -- not that being inspired is stealing, but that being inspired comes with responsibility, and those that cannot uphold it may fall into a pit. Once we fall into that pit of fear, it is very hard to pull ourselves back out.
There will always be people who accuse you of stealing, of copying, and that is something that we all have to come to terms with; as I said, we all have to walk that thin line for ourselves, and come to our own conclusions about it, and understand that we can never change others' minds, but we can control how we think, and we will always know if we go too far. But we shouldn't let the possibility for ridicule sway us from being inspired, and letting our inspirations drive us, because then we miss out.
Dearest creator, please remember: there is nothing wrong with being inspired; there is nothing wrong with reworking your favorite elements of a story; there is nothing wrong with using reflections of your favorite characters; there is nothing wrong with using reflections of your favorite world or plot; there is nothing wrong with paying homage to the creators and stories that you love.
Being inspired comes with responsibility, as does creating. There are two sides to every coin.
Perhaps Mr. Lewis said it best:
"People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time. If the children had ever thought so, they were cured of it now."
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Blog Updates ~
I have been extremely busy since the dawn of the "new" site, and things are going well! Surprisingly, I've had an old story, which I put on the "probably won't be finished" shelf a few months prior, come back to me -- time for a rewrite!
Before I go into my reasonings, I want to extend a special thank you to everyone who had stuck by me through this period of change. Things have been crazy, emotional, and frustrating, but I am finally getting to a point where they are going better, and I can see a new horizon. I've realized that things had to change in order for me to go forward, and so that is what I am working towards.
So, the story? Some of you might remember Shadows of Past Memories, one of my first releases ever? I have decided to rework and rewrite the story from scratch, because it was needed at this point. To re-connect with myself as a writer, and to become better at my craft, I've had to go back to the beginning.
So I am in the process of rewriting right now. I can't say how long it will be, but I've come to realize that the amount of time doesn't matter; I will do my best to stay true to this story, and that's what really is important. I will be posting artwork semi-regularly, though, such as the fox picture above, so please enjoy that until I have more to tell about my project.
It is very exciting!