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Monday, July 11, 2016

Confessions of a Copycat

post by Michelle Griep
I don't like cats. I know. I know. I just offended half my audience. Deal with it. The thing is that I grew up with the cat from hell. No, really. He smelled of sulfur and his eyes glowed, seriously, all the time. I'm pretty sure he was possessed.

That being said, I do have a certain affinity for felines because I am a copycat.

If you grab a book off my shelf, you'll be able to tell if it's one of my all-time favorites by the amount of dog-ears and highlighting. Why do I trash my most beloved novels? I keep a notebook, several, actually (I can never remember where I leave them, so if there's a bunch laying around, I never need hunt for them). In the notebooks, I copy down sentences that make me weep, wet my pants, or hang my head in self-pity knowing that I'll never be able to put words together in such a fashion. Why bother? Several reasons . . .

- The act of writing down beautiful writing inspires my own writing.

- Innovation is often fueled by imitation.

- And most importantly, in the words of Picasso, "Good artists copy, great artists steal."  (click to tweet)

Now don't get me wrong. I am not advocating plagiarism. Felonies are never fun. Here's how I use those notebooks . . .

When I'm polishing up a rough draft, I love to add in lines that really zing. I look for places that are dull or dragging, then open up one of my notebooks. I find a sentence or two that could work in that spot, then I use them to inspire me to think creatively by re-writing them into something different. Need an example?

Copied sentence: His throat twisted into a sodden, knotted rope.

My innovation: Words knotted in his throat, cutting off air, breath, hope.

See what I did? I used knotted and throat from the first sentence and then rewrote them into my own voice.

For more on imitation, here's a great article by 99U: Here is Your Official Permission to Be a Copycat

You didn't think I actually came up with the idea for this post today all by myself, did you?

Like what you read? There’s more. WRITER OFF THE LEASH: GROWING IN THE WRITING CRAFT is a kick in the pants for anyone who wants to write but is stymied by fear, doubt, or simply doesn’t know how to take their writing to the next level.

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. Follow her adventures and find out about upcoming new releases at her blog, Writer Off the Leash, or stop by her website. You can also find her at the usual haunts of FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.


  1. Love that, Michelle! I think by reading great writers again and again we tune our ears to hear. You've taken it a step further by jotting down the lovely lines, the mots justes, that grab your attention. Excellent thought.

  2. Super post, Muchelle! I've done this for years: take a sentence I love and make my own by changing things. Hey wait. I think you taught me that.

  3. Thanks Normandie. Glad to be of service to you and to Ane!

  4. I don't care how you do it, just keep doing it.

  5. I keep several good books by me when I'm writing and when I take a break, I read a few pages for inspiration. Thanks for a good article! :-)


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