Why I like copying down other people’s written work

During the time I was writing my PhD thesis, I struggled with writer’s block a lot. I was a member of an online support forum for fellow PhD students, and we shared our angst. One day someone gave me a piece of advice that changed my whole thinking, and inspired me and validated me on the fact that I love to copy down verbatim what other people have written. This person reassured me and said to me,

“Psychologist was arguing that the best way to write first, was to first write loads, and loads of rubbish, be it copied and pasted stuff, or stuff from the top of your head, and then edit it down. Apparently people who write like that are loads more productive than those who plan meticulously and try to write perfectly first time.” (Unknown).

When I come across something that someone has written, and it inspires me, or moves me, or I simply love it, I need to copy it down word for word. I need to assimilate it into my brain, into my being, and the only way I can do it, is if I copy it down. Why do I do it? Maybe I hope that one day it might inspire me to then create my own original piece of writing; it might act like a springboard for inspiration. I once read that there isn’t any such thing as an ‘original thought’, that most things are derived from other things with a slight twist or variation. I also love to share things with other people; I don’t know why. Isn’t it just human nature to want to share things that move us and things that we love?



Finding Neverland

“All great writers begin with a good leather binding and a respectable title.” J.M Barrie

“You’ve come to mean so much to us all that now, it doesn’t matter if it’s true. And even if it isn’t true, even if that can never be…I need to go on pretending…until the end…with you.” Silvia Llewelyn Davies

My two favourite quotes from the film Finding Neverland – one of those rare films that I’ve rated 10 stars on IMDB; a wonderful film that breaks my heart into a million pieces, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. 

The film never fails to inspire me to get out my own leather binding notebook and write. To just write for myself, for my future self. It is only when you write privately that you can write truthfully without filters, without censorship. You feel safe in the knowledge that only your future self will read it, so you write honestly and without hesitation. 

“If you write for yourself, you’ll always have an audience.” -Bruce Springsteen

“We can secure other people’s approval if we do right and try hard; but our own is worth a hundred of it, and no way has been found out of securing that”. – Mark TwainImage

We are our own leading protagonist in our books

I had an epiphany yesterday whilst reading my book (Divergent) on the tube – I realised I live my life as if I’m writing a book in my head about my life (or making a film). And I realised we are all our own leading protagonist characters in our life (in our books).

We’re all writing a first person narrative book in our heads about our lives. We are all leading protagonists – because we see the world through our eyes and we’re unable to see ourselves from the outside, or see it from other people’s perspective. No matter how empathetic we are, we will always colour another person’s perspective through our own self bias.

Our lives are like a fictional storybook: the choices we make, the things we do, the way we think, what we think about, what we say, how we act towards other people, what we like/ love, what we’re passionate about, our likes and dislikes, who we like, who we love, who we hate and dislike, who we admire, who we respect, all add to the plot of our story and determine what type (genre) the book is. And ultimately what type of protagonist (character) we are in our book. The people in our lives are other characters in our books, and sometimes we’re side characters in other people’s books.

No one person’s life (book) is better or more interesting, that’s for the audience (the imaginary audience out there in the ether cosmos) to decide…

I sometimes imagine that there is an audience out there of special unearthly beings reading my book or watching my life as a film and making random commentary on the things I say or do, the choices I make, my life events, my life episodes, my day and sometimes writing a review on those rare wonderful magical days that are like a film in itself. Those creatures watching our lives or reading a chapter of our book think and make mental notes and commentary just how we do when we’re reading a book or watching a film. Is this narcissistic? Perhaps. But aren’t we all? Our own lives are more important than anything else, no matter how altruistic you are, because it is your life, and in order to survive both emotionally, psychological and physically, you have to think of yourself first. It’s not being selfish, it’s being intelligent.

One of the first rules of First Aid we were taught is – as a First Aider, you need to make sure the surrounding is safe – you have to assess the area for danger – before you run into a situation, because if you put yourself in danger, you are no good to them or yourself. “There’s a fine line between bravery and idiocy” (Veronica Roth).

Dale Carnegie wrote, “People are more interested in themselves and their wants and problems than they are in you and your problems. A person’s toothache means more to that person than a famine in China which kills a million people.”

We are humans. We try to be there for other people, but ultimately we think about our own wants, desires, and wishes, than other people’s, we’re just built that way. Sometimes we do care, but we forget and are preoccupied by things happening in our lives. We get stuck in our own heads. We are humans. Not angels. We are ultimately selfish, but we try. And that’s okay. We’re all a working progress. There is no ‘the end’, that only comes with death. We have to constantly battle our way through life and strive to be better versions of ourselves. And be there for the people in our lives and contribute to society in our own special way. But we’re human and sometimes we will make mistakes, but that just adds to the plot of our story.