And no, it, surprisingly perhaps, has nothing to do with my ex. Or her mum. Maybe that’s one for another time.
For a fair old while now I’ve been wondering how best to blog about this. Basically, and to cut a very long story short, there was a writing community. A group of writers who were friends. Who shared their work with each other for feedback. One of those friends, it turned out, was using (abusing) his friendship by stealing the ideas of his friends and passing them off as his own. Much has been said about this. Here, for example. It even spawned an anti-plagiarism day to which many, many people contributed. Including me.
And as I said at the time: theft is wrong and whoever does it should be ashamed. And one of the most important bits about being a writer is the ability to MAKE STUFF UP. Which is different to taking other people’s stories. Very different.
The writer in question has defended himself (I’ve linked to what he’s said below). He’s said that what he’s done is legitimate because he’s an artiste (don’t you know) and that all art is shared. And to a point, yes it is – every artist learns from who’s gone before them and what they’ve produced. People are influenced. I know I’ve said a good, good many times how much reading the utterly splendid Aimee Bender and Etgar Keret’s work has shaped me as a writer. And Carver. And Mary Miller. And Alice Munro. And Kurt Vonnegut. And Sarah Salway. And Michael Czyzniejewski. And Caroline Smailes. And Roy Kesey. And Sebastian Beaumont and F Scott Fitzgerald. And… okay, you’re getting bored. I understand.
The keyword here is: INFLUENCED. Not: I’LL WRITE, I’LL DO THE WORK AND YOU CAN TAKE THE CREDIT (without even telling me!!!).
The whole thing upset me. That a guy, a friend, could do that, upset me (most writers I know are brilliant and lovely and morally sound). A lot. God, that he did it was bad enough. And not apologise. And not admit to what he’d done. Even now he refuses to put a piece of his (which he nicked) up online (it won a comp and was taken down and withdrawn once the comp organisers realised what had happened) so people could see the actual evidence and make their own minds up.
What he has been doing, especially of late, is blogging (and commenting on his own posts and apparently replying to them) about the whole thing. Trying to justify why he did what he did. And trying to suggest that the people who objected (he calls one a ‘mad woman’ – I call her his former friend who trusted him who he stole work from and who’s pissed off about it) are stupid and don’t understand the artistic process. He’s talking bullshit of course. (All this after he’s commented here, on my blog, under a variety of different names, I should say.)
As I said, I’ve been wondering how best to blog about this for some time.
And then I got this email, which I think sums things up perfectly. And I had to post it now, even though it’s late. And no, it’s probably not from who you might think it’s from . But it IS right.
Stealing’s wrong. Stealing from friends is even worse.
It says (the sensible email, that is….):
For most writers, this is utterly unacceptable behaviour. It is not the taking of legitimate inspiration. It is done behind people’s backs, without permission, abusing trust. It is theft. Underhand and mean-spirited, fuelled by both jealousy and greed.
There are NO articles endorsing the taking of work from friends without permission. Unless they are written by Douglas Bruton.
It is deeply cynical that Bruton repeatedly seeks to join groups of unsuspecting writers, without warning them of his weird creative habits. We’d like to suggest that he seeks the company of like-minded writers, who don’t mind their hard work being taken by colleagues, without asking, without thanks, without credit.
So that’s all I’ve got to say on the subject – I’m glad the above emailer said it so well (better than me). I imagine there’ll be a can of worms opened up. And I imagine there’ll be a few comments here from people (or names, let’s be honest!) I’m not familiar with. But it needed saying, this. And it’s been said.
Folks, be nice to your friends. Don’t steal from them. It’s rubbish.