“What He Said” (Creativity vs. Quoting Others)

21 Jun

“They’re officious and dull. They’re always making profound observations they’ve overheard” (Gene Kelly in “An American in Paris” about the third-year art students who spend their time in Paris criticizing everyone else’s art. I love that line!).

There is a time to quote others and there is a time to write your own original material.  

And, when quoting others, we must always attribute the quote to the originator, if known. 

No one would disagree with those principles.

However, sometimes we would disagree about where those lines fall.

Gene Kelly’s line in “An American in Paris” was meant to convey the hypocrisy of someone who stands criticizing someone else’s original artwork, using borrowed lines to do that.

Can we at least agree that, when criticizing someone for lack of originality, one should use original words?  Ya think?

As a blogger/writer, I don’t claim any superpowers.  There are days my writing gets bogged down.  I usually see it . . . later.

And . . . I am only inserting myself as an example here.  There is not any actual criticism of my blog going on, as far as I know.  There are people who will not read it, but that is a different issue.  

Far as I know, they regard bloggers as egomaniacs whom they don’t wish to stroke.  

Ha!  I regard blog posts as Facebook postings that get too long.  And I read the Facebook postings of the people who seem to feel that way about my blog.  So . . . there can be some “one-way” stuff going on sometimes.  It’s okay.  

But I do believe that, if a writer has written about something in an easily searchable blog (and my blogs even show up in Google searches occasionally), then the “rules of engagement” would indicate that people not misrepresent her ideas, which are so easy to locate in the blogosphere. 

Yet every writer, myself included, is regularly subjected to red herring and ad hominem attacks nowadays, in which it becomes obvious that the person attacking has not even read what that writer has put down on paper/screen.

I decided when I started blogging that those types of misrepresentations are going to be met with one response only.  “I have blogged about that and you need to see what I actually said.” 

On the other hand, you will often see people, on Facebook or in person, quoting their favorite pundits whom they have read in a war of words.  

You can have a group of conservatives standing around before church, all quoting someone else about women in the military.  

Or you can have a mixed group of conservatives and liberals, flinging words at each other on the topic of abortion, with every single one of those words quoted from someone else.

I will just say it.  

Ever since college I have highly respected original ideas.  I don’t mean that there is anything new under the sun.  There is not (attribution: Solomon).

But there surely is a place for reading many sources and synthesizing the things we read into our own ideas, rather than just quoting others verbatim.  

That is why it is good for a conservative to watch CNN; that is why it is good for a liberal to watch Fox News.  

Sure, some of their reporting is exactly what I am criticizing here.  Even on national news, we have sycophants who just read another news source rather than write (or interpret) anything original. But the more sources we check, the greater the chance that we, at least, will think for ourselves.

And that, my friends, is the endgame I am after. 

If you are a Christian, then quote the Bible.  It is inerrant.  

But don’t elevate other writings to that status.  Not Fox News, not your favorite “rock star pastor’s” words, not even your own pastor’s words.  

Anyone worth their salt (like my Pastor) would want to see evidence that you took their words and processed them, rather than just blindly spitting them back out in whatever setting you deemed appropriate!

If you are not used to doing this, try to make one original statement today.  Have the courage of your convictions to stand behind it.  It really isn’t so hard, once you get started.






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