Sunday, December 22, 2013

Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth

Deb in Barcelona
I was in my readers zone, oblivious to the rest of the world rotating around me, reading contentedly away, when I came across a quote. Not just any quote. A quote from my very mouth. Or at least my very keyboard. 

Only it didn't include my name. If I hadn't written it myself, I would have never known it was me who'd uttered it.

"Someone once said ..."
"I read that ..."
"Once upon a time there was a crazy lady writer who said ..."

Have you ever run head on into your own anonymous self in print? If you haven't yet, dear writer buddy, you will one day. It's a very strange sensation, indeed, to recognize your own words but realize no one else will.

Writers don't give quote credit where credit is due for many reasons. Sometimes they don't know who said it and are just too lazy to plug it in a search engine. Other times they mean no harm - they're just repeating something they heard and liked and want to share.

But sometimes they want the reader to connect the words they've "borrowed" with themselves; they're not blatant enough to outright plagiarize, but on the other hand, they're not upright enough to cite their references. And they think if they sort of schmooze the clever quote in among their words, their writing will magically be better by literary osmosis.

I once recognized a funny story lifted right out of one of my books ( not attributed to me, of course) that made the viral rounds. I was at first honored in a smug sort of way to realize gazillions of people were reading my story that was being forwarded to the vast corners of the earth.

But it didn't take long to realize that unless they knew who wrote those words, it was no honor at all. It then became to feel more like an insult and I became enraged at the audacity of whomever felt they had the right to steal the product I work so hard to produce. That's right. Stories are the products of authors, just like TV's are the products of Sony technicians.

I'll bet if I heisted a big screen TV on my back in the electronic showroom and tried to walk out with it, there might be a bit of a kerfuffle. Yet no one bats an eyelash when a writer's products are heisted.

So please, dear writer buddy, take the high road. Cite your references. And refuse to forward anything, no matter how rib-tickling or tear-jerking it is, unless it includes the writer's byline.  

Somebody wrote it. And one day, that somebody might be you.