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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Flash Fiction Advisory

License to steal?

Independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch is famous for maintaining a unique vision in a highly corporate medium. One of his most famous quotes on inspiration reads like flash:
Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery—celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”
Great, huh? It's even a mere 100 words! The only bad part?

This philosophy makes you a criminal.

Regardless of what the imdb says, Rudy Wurlitzer, not Jim Jarmusch, was the screenwriter for Dead Man. You can read all about the theft here. More importantly, you can read the real Dead Man in Wurlitzer's novel, The Drop Edge of Yonder.

But I guess you could say that Jarmusch's philosophy works: steal from others and profit. You might even get a high-falutin' quote out of it.

But whether you call plagiarism "theft" or "devouring" or "inspiration," the thing hurts people. Author Neal Bowers wrote a wonderful non-fiction detective book about the wrenching experience of being plagiarized by someone else (and hunting the dastard down) in Words for the Taking.

As for me? Give me Wurlitzer: a true original.

Flash Fic Advisory #13: Life, like flash, is too short to waste on plagiarism.
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