You Know You’re a Writer When…

There are a couple of songs out there that really annoy me, not because they’re bad, or too catchy, or offensive, or overplayed, or any of the usual reasons. They irk me because the writer used a concept in the lyrics that I had come up with much earlier, but hadn’t had the chance to get published in a story yet. On top of that, these songs were (and are) really popular, so there’s little chance that I can use my ideas without getting accused of being a copy cat.

The first one is Plumb’s “In My Arms.” This one irritates me because I wrote a lullaby for my infant sister when I was thirteen that had eerily similar lyrics. I later (age fifteen) revised it with great success into a poem in a story I was writing. Plumb’s song didn’t come out until I had just graduated from high school at eighteen. When I first heard the song, I thought someone had gotten into my notebooks and stolen my writing. The melody was different and quite a few of the words too. There’s no question that the artist wrote the song herself, but the similarities were profound.

And the saddest thing is, I know that the song I wrote was a good one. I had people ask me about it all the time when I would sing it to my little sister. But it’s been spoiled for me because someone else got there first. Though, I suppose if I bide my time, Plumb’s song will be forgotten and I can get someone to perform mine with equal success.

The other song is Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain.” When I was sixteen, I collaborated on a story with a friend of mine. It was a painful undertaking because she was a much less experienced writer that I was. Now,ten years later, I wouldn’t call myself experienced at sixteen either, but I’d been writing since I was six and she had only started recently. One of the only redeeming bits of that garbled, inconsistent, disaster of a story was a scene that I wrote in which the heroine, a water elementalist, lay severely injured on the shore of a lake, struck down by the villain because she was the only one able to open portals between the elemental realms. Her companion, a fire elementalist with a huge crush on her, was trying to save her life and in his despair, he lost control of his emotions and the rain falling over them began to burn as the oxygen and hydrogen began to separate out of the water molecules.  Everyone who read the scene said it was well written, full of tension, emotion, and beautiful imagery without being over the top. Several teachers and adults saw the scene and said I ought to turn it in to the school’s literary magazine.

Even though this friend graduated a year before I did and took the notebook we’d been using with her, I’d always planned on reworking the story myself and trying to recapture that scene. Now, with Adele’s song out this last year, I’m having a hard time seeing a way to do this without it seeming derivative.

Maybe I’m being silly. Maybe no one would connect the line from her song with the event in the story. But the reality is that my struggle to be original makes it very hard for me to allow myself to do anything that feels like copying someone else. And I certainly don’t want people to think that ideas that I came up with on my own were derived from someone else’s work.

Am I being silly about this? Has this ever happened to anyone else? I’m sure it has, and I’d love to hear about it.


~ by lamichaud on August 16, 2012.

2 Responses to “You Know You’re a Writer When…”

  1. I don’t think it’s silly. I’ve had my share of “Omg… that was totally my idea. How did they…?” It’s frustrating but also, I find it empowering. Because then, you know you had a great idea!

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