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?

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The Constant Scholar

Former academic biologist (PhD), now a rogue scholar in psychology, philosophy, and other things that interest me. Things I love: films, books, music, writing, photography, philosophy, and psychology.

One thought on “Why I like copying down other people’s written work”

  1. This stranger made me feel so validated on my love of writing down copious amounts of verbatim notes for no reason, other than the simple fact that I love to copy things down that I find – interesting, moving, or inspiring. When this kind stranger reassured me – it was a pivotal moment in my PhD life and motivated me to keep writing my thesis, and carried me through the dark days when I thought I would never be able to write my thesis. I had their quote stuck on my wall next to my computer monitor and looked at it whenever I started to panic or suffer writer’s block.

    There are times in your life – when someone tells you something so profound, so inherently beautiful and validating, that it stays with you forever, even after that person is long gone. I wish I could thank that person again. It was an online support forum for PhD students, and I don’t remember who that person was, and there is noway of finding them or contacting them; I wish I could, because I would love to thank them again.

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