How did that line from the famous The Beatles song go?
“Get back, get back
Get back to where you once belonged”
Works a charm in writing too. When you have to borrow an idea, borrow it from yourself first. A known blogger (can’t remember the name nor find it in the mess of newsletters I have to at least skim daily) wrote recently that when he gets short on the inspiration he goes and reads his own blogs. Great idea. Ok, I’m borrowing his, but I’m going in my own direction because he’s checking his ideas, I’m checking mine. Of course, picking ideas from somebody else does not necessarily have to be a bad thing unless you go in the direction of full-blown plagiarism. And if you constantly keep borrowing somebody else’s ideas you’ll end there no matter what. It just depends on when will you get caught and whether you’ll have any profit from it in the meantime.
Those who are familiar with a certain Balkan songwriter/musician known also outside that region are also quite familiar that he is one of the most frequent musical “borrowers”. From himself, but also from others. He got sued a few times, and as the story goes, on one occasion he paid up readily. He had no financial trouble doing it and I guess he knew what he was doing. Now he’s even got a plane named after him.
The thing is, most everybody else suffers more dire consequences from borrowing too much from others. Starting on a trail that somebody else blazed and then taking an unexpected or even expected turn, just as long as it is yours and not somebody else’s, is one thing. Even trying to retrace somebody's else’s steps can be a legitimate thing - you can try to resolve another writer’s reasoning, see if he could have gone in another direction, there are quite a few possibilities there. Just as long as it is not a blind, and as the writing is concerned, word for word thing.
But then, to do all that you have to know your own writing to the full and explore your own ideas first. Looking back to what you have done previously can show you what idea you can develop even further or where you went wrong somehow the first time around. I guess retracing your own steps could be just the course towards a really new idea. So I guess here we “Get Back” to The Beatles…