During “The Flight of the Conchords”, the short-lived, brilliant comedy series there was an episode where a girl falls in love with one of the main characters because she says that he looks like Art Garfunkel, who was supposedly her former boyfriend. Of course, he doesn’t. He gets into the act, even tries to adapt his looks, but by the time he does that, the real Art Garfunkel actually shows up at the door, and the whole thing falls apart.
Playing a substitute is always a balancing act, the benefits are there, but can possibly bring only a brief gratification. With all the negative elements surfacing at some point or other, like in one of the best The Who songs of the same name:
“ But I’m a substitute for another guy
I look pretty tall but my heels are high
The simple things you see are all complicated
I look pretty young, but I’m just back-dated, yeah.” (The Who: “Substitute”)
When writing and substitute, substitutes and substitution are brought in the same context as writing, the first thing that comes to mind is the ghost part of it — sitting down and writing somebody else’s story, ideas in your own words — turning yourself into a ghostwriter. Yet, that could not be the whole story. What if you use somebody else’s ideas, character traits, plots and turn them into your own, and not just your own words?
Of course, similar ideas, characters or plot sequences happen all the time, quite a few concepts in pop culture, particularly music and performing arts are based on the same premises, but with different end outcome.
On one hand, if that outcome is actually different, or actual elements used previously are strapped together to give them an altogether different outcome as a whole, there might be benefits for a writer to take a writing road that has already been taken.
But on the other, the pitfalls are dangerous and if that ’substitution’ turns into outright plagiarism the final effects can be more than damaging to a writing career.
So substitution can be a writing tool in the broad interpretation of the term but can be a very dangerous tool if not used lightly and correctly.
Since there was something to write with, and at the time something to play with, some kind of a sport, usually involving a ball of some sorts, up until these times, there is an ongoing thought that these things are not really compatible.
Even most of the kids in school who preferred a pen, or these days an iPad, are the ones remaining in the classroom or in some corner of the yard scribbling or typing something, while most of the others are chasing a ball or playing any kind of a game that falls under the title of a sport.
Somehow, that keeps the prospective, or full-fledged writers way from anything connected with a word sport, depriving themselves of a vast field of writing possibilities that necessarily do not have to be connected with any sport itself, whether it is its rules, mechanics or logic.
As any good song about the sports, like New Order’s “World In Motion”, shows, sports can be a source of writing inspiration, using it as a springboard to something that goes more to the elements of what humanity is.
Too much? Not really. What about the social aspects of sports, their meaning to human interaction, the need for spectators to participate in the game in some form or other, the social and political use and misuse of sports, health benefits, injuries, physical and mental, the impact of winning or losing… and it goes on.
As with any other human activity, sports can be an infinite source of writing inspiration. Ok, many would say, but still, you have to be knowledgeable about any or all sports to write credibly about them, even if they are only a base for other deliberations.
Sure, but then how do you write about anything, politics, economy, philosophy if you don’t research or do some form of study or other? Maybe it is just a form of aversion towards something you thought you were not good at or towards those days when other kids mocked you when you terribly missed hitting that ball for a score or did you just forget that you still wanted to play anyway?
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