Thursday, May 18, 2006

Unconscious Plagiarism?

Few days back, Supa got that bomb-ass magical nudge to write down some words she felt would eventually weave its way into a poem.. (my new material is coming right along ya'll! Yay!!). Though after re-reading the first few lines, she discoverd the general inflection and cadence seemed strangely familiar...and then she realized: Supa had just read a similiar piece a few months back...

Supa begin to ponder: (a) Would I have written the same piece the exact same way, even if I hadn't read something similar? and, (b) If not - does that make my shit any less original?

There is a phenomenon called cryptomnesia (shit sounds scary!), or "concealed recollection." The cat at Start Snitching (check him out) hipped me to it, and also posed the questions:

Can you be so impressed upon by art that it just becomes a part of your collective consciousness? Can you have the same exact idea as someone else? Is there such thing as accidental plagiarism?

Check out what happened to this chick:

author Kaavya Viswanathan.

Her manuscript "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got A Life" (love that title, btw) and her sixfig book deal were droppped on claims she blatantly ganked from not just one, but three other already published books: The Princess Diaries, Sloppy Firsts, and Second Helpings.

The Book.

For all you artists and fellow-word slangers out there: What do you think about the unconscious ability for other creative works (either read or seen in the past) to affect your work??

Here's a definition of plagiarism: To steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (a created production) without crediting the source vi: to commit literary theft: present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

So: Plagiarism vs. Cryptomnesia? Who's to say?

PS - Supa thinks Jimmy "Gangsta White Boy" Frey is still a fuckhead.


onecoolhoney said...

No, I definitely believe that happens which is why I PURPOSELY do NOT read fiction at all while I'm writing or thinking about writing my own.

Supa said...

Storm: Another writer expressed the same to me. I tend to stop reading when I'm writing, so guess that's a good thing!!

dpm said...

The same applies for me. I cain't read when I write. I think cryptomnesia is real. However, I believe myself to be somewhat aware of it when it happens.

I also believe that when you have a notion or idea it's in the "ethers." It's a vibe or frequency that you picked up on. So the best thing to do is act on it because other people can "mysteriously" get wind of the same idea.

For instance, have you ever thought of a brilliant idea and then see someone else move on the similar or exact concept?

I think it's because they received the same frequency, message or notion in the cosmos.

This is why I can't date white girls right now... I had a feeling if i didn't prevent myself from doing so, someone else would beat me to "The Verge" and I'd be forced to date one anyway.

Nichelle said...

Exactly - I agree with all of you. I'm doing a non-fiction book now, but you have to be careful with that too. Whenever I make a notation from another source, I immediately make a note for my bibliography.

I once read that the key to avoiding plagiarism is to distinguish where someone else's work ends and your thought process begins.

Fiction is especially dangerous - especially if it's in your genre. I will read mystery every now and then, or something classic, like James Baldwin - but I've missed a ton of books lately because I won't read anything new until my novel is done.

African girl, American world said...

girl get outta my head! I swear I thought this very thing.
My thing is there are so many people in the world and yes we are different BUT surely every now and then we have the exact same thoughts, right? I mean you and I have written about the same thing on the same day and not communicated and it has happened to another blogger and I too.
So with this indian chick I was thinknig how different and original can a story about sex and the city really be? I mean add some curry into her version and viola!

Miss Ahmad said...

I have been following this young woman's story from the beginning and unfortunately it doesn't seem like she was telling the truth, which is not to say that some where on earth this hasn't happened.

Not that publishing is the most above board of all industries, it appears as though she pawned a story that she knew had marketing value and then was shocked when it didn't work!

Even worse than James "shoulda been a rapper" Frey, because at least his story was original.

I think it's imperative for a writer to be aware of their own voice which means writing from that piece of truth, telling the tales that only you can tell.

once you start shucking and jiving for publishing houses and agents you could easily get caught up in the come up.

What's sad is that her book sales, like Frey's have risen considerably so although she was dropped from her deal, everyone is still making money hand over fist!

i over posted! great post!

P said...

Ecclesiastes 1:9: What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.


Writers have to be especially careful, because the unconscious, subconscious, and, even to some degree, conscious psyche plays an important element in the creativity process.

From the heart of a journalist (who is disguised in an HR chair), it is imperative to identify from whence your creative elements are inspired from. If in fact her intent was to fraud, then may we shatter her book into "A Million Little Pieces" (hehe; if her intent was blurred in her literary thirst that we call reading (which is suspect), then I feel for her.

In any case, her responsibility to her readers, editor, and to herself is to maintain the highest level of integrity, and I believe, all of this includes the methods that the writers in said comments of this blog utilize their creativity factor.

Very.Good.Post. . .

Knockout Zed said...

Exactly. There is a book that came out in 1999 that I started to read and had to STOP because I saw something in it that was similar to stuff I was writing. I didn't want to bite his shit subconsciously. I still don't read a lot of fiction overall.


The Human Resource said...

Thanks for the love.

Lots of artists stop consuming art when they are in the process of creating so they are not influenced.

It's quite real.

However I don't believe these people who got busted for it.

Miss P AKA Her Royal Cliqueness said...

I've never experienced concealed recollection. Like most of you, I rarely read while I'm in the middle of writing a novel. But that's tied to not having the time to do both more than anything else.

Kavaaya V. says she unintentionally copied. But I followed the story closely when it broke and some (many) of the passages were far too close in flow to be "internalization."

Obviously this does happen to some people. But more likely than not if all of us were tasked to write a story on the same topic and even given similiar elements that had to be included in the story - none of our stories would ring exactly the K.V.'s case seems to be a blatant case of copying, nothing even close to cryptomnesia.

*amber* said...

I just wanted to say that I think that you and your blog is jsut too cute! Keep it up!

Thawtz said...

That's one of the things that makes writing for me so hard. I've read so much, I'm afraid I'll wind up putting down someone else's work and not realize it until I'm too late.

2undeh said...

Nice blog. Well laid out.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Sup.

I am sure it does happen, but I feel that this girl consciously copied others' works.

The passages were just too similar...too damn similar, which is unfortunate because she was young when she made her deal (17) and prolly could have had a great career ahead of her. The idea for the book alone was wonderful...

Zlogical said...

Supa: Just the other week I wrote a statement in my research paper then searched for a valid source to back up what I said--believe it or not my chosen source mentioned my statement verbatim in his article. I was shocked (well I said more than that). So I agree that you can feel, think, and write the same as someone else on a given subject (This was only a sentence).
On another note when I was hot and heavy in the game of spoken word running the streets spitting. I noticed those who hung together had similar words and influenced each other without thought. However, remember that time I told I caught old girl at Philander Smith College spitting your poem as if it was hers back in the late 1990's? There are copycats (plagiarizers out there).
Check a person's track record (writing style) and you can easily see their pattern and growth. There may be a few potholes along the way, but if it was asphalt in the beginning it shouldn't be concrete in the end. Take me for instance--I've grown a lot over the years, but you can still find the same similar patterns of thought and style that make up who I am and how I think.
Of course others will influence you; however, you can't take a person who has not been through pain and tell it with the same impact as one who has not. I know when I read a lot of the history books it pissed me off enough to write a lot of poems, but I know it was nothing compared to our brothers and sister who really saw folks hanging from trees, and even those in their family. I can't regurgitate that emotion--I can only reflect it.
Let someone try and challenge my feelings and thoughts calling it their own--I'd fight them until they plead and paid me for wasting my time! I write and will always write for a cause...besides who wants to be a someone else--it's hard enough to be me! Thanks Supa...

Free said...

I think I saw someone else make the same point as I have: I don't read other's works when I am writing. Not because I'm afraid of snagging their ideas, but because I'm afraid to mess up the sound of my character's voices that play in my head. Now I'm GLAD for that because I could just see this sponge-y mind of mine absorbing someone's words & spitting them back out on paper.

Free said...

I'm cracking up 'cause I went back and checked out what dpm had to say.

Humor aside, I love your idea D about the "ethers." I have to think more about that, but it's deep, bro.

Also - I think while there is nothing new under the sun, there's a difference between an idea & the way an idea if conveyed.

dp said...

One of my most encouraging mentors was an anthropology adjunct that I sold blow to. We also got high together and he explained several of his philosophies to me which I use today.

PARALLEL DIFFUSION - is the notion that an idea finds many different people at the same instance. Anthropologists uncovered the remains of prehistoric civilizations in disparate places. Traces of farming and manipulated fire were both found and carbon dated to similiar results. So the notion that one dude created fire doesn't hold up. All of this to say that DPM is prah'lee right when he talks about the cosmic nature of thought.

My fiction isn't hampered by reading other folks because I don't read a genre close to the one that I write for. My blog is heavily influenced by other blogs that I read. The thought process of blogging and fiction writing are way disimiliar. I create an outline and arc for my fiction, but when I blog I try to keeo it freestyle. As if I were having a conversation with one of my down azz homies.

btw SOUP, this post wasn't too long but it was sharp. good stuff

Delaleuverses said...

Yes, I read about this author and what she did, that was foul. To put your work out there and get the credit with a six figure deal? I would be one pissed author. It's really how you tell the story that sells, but if you're using other people's ideas it feels more like rape.