There's nothing original in the world. Good writers are always stealing ideas from each other and recycling stories. It's expected. And it's natural.

photo by LollyKnit

photo by LollyKnit

The coworker in the cubical next to you has a snack. You hear his wrapper, decide you're hungry, and go get a snack yourself.

You stole his idea.

Your opponent in a heated tennis match always slices the ball making it impossible to return. She's winning anyway so you decide to try it.

You stole her move.

You read a good book and liked the way the writer crafted sentences and maybe even without realizing it, you find yourself doing the same thing.

Your stole his voice.


When it comes to being a writer, forget everything you've ever learned about stealing. If it makes you feel better, consider it “borrowing.”

Stealing like a writer is like making a braid. One idea from over here; one idea from other there.

Some people may have a bigger piece of yarn in your braid than others but when you're influenced by different people is when illegal plagiarism becomes accepted stealing.

Weave them together and out comes something new. No one else has the same combination of voices, stories, and opinions woven together in your braid. Since no two braids are the same, no two stories are told exactly the same way.

(Disclaimer: When in doubt, cite your sources).

Who are some writers with pieces of yarn in your braid?


For 15 minutes write like somebody else.

You know the drill. Post it in the comments and comment on a few other practices.

Katie Axelson is a writer, editor, and blogger who's seeking to live a story worth telling. You can find her blogging, tweeting, and facebook-ing.

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