"If I have seen farther, its by standing on the shoulders of giants." Isaac Newton
"The immature poet imitates. The mature poet plagiarizes." T.S.Elliot
"What is originality? Undetected plagiarism." William Inge
What's going on here? Are these famous people advocating cheating? How is it possible to "copy" something that becomes original?
It's a matter of levels. One can be inspired by another's method or style at one level, and apply it to new content in one's own unique way at a different level. The Beetles did it in most of their later albums. Picasso did that the last 35 years of his life, creating unmistakable "Picassos" in many "period" styles. Bach went blind copying the scores of other musicians as a way of studying them. Jazz musicians insert and transform popular tunes in the middle of their solos. Beethoven, Brahms and many others elevated folk melodies in their symphonic works. They did not imitate others, trying to sound exactly like them. They plagiarized styles in creating new songs, paintings and symphonies.
Conclusion: Find a model, method or person and study it, him or her, then act through that style.
- Write your novel in the style of Conrad or Hemmingway.
- Perform "thought" experiments like Einstein.
- How would Freud, Jung, Adler, Reich analyze a situation?
- What would the person you most admire do in your situation?
A physicist learned about a new electron microscope. Not knowing the principle involved, he figured out three ways it could be done. Back in his lab he built working models. When he checked, one of his models had been used, but another was far superior and made the original patent obsolete.