A nice little item from Techdirt quoting Francis Ford Coppola quoting Balzac — on quoting. Or copying, to be precise.
I once found a little excerpt from Balzac. He speaks about a young writer who stole some of his prose. The thing that almost made me weep, he said, “I was so happy when this young person took from me.” Because that’s what we want. We want you to take from us. We want you, at first, to steal from us, because you can’t steal. You will take what we give you and you will put it in your own voice and that’s how you will find your voice.
And that’s how you begin. And then one day someone will steal from you. And Balzac said that in his book: It makes me so happy because it makes me immortal because I know that 200 years from now there will be people doing things that somehow I am part of. So the answer to your question is: Don’t worry about whether it’s appropriate to borrow or to take or do something like someone you admire because that’s only the first step and you have to take the first step.
It’s the “standing on the shoulders of giants” argument, of course, and it’s nice to see it used in such distinguished company. The rest of the interview with Coppola from which this is taken is available here. It’s actually about “Risk, Money, Craft & Collaboration”. There are some other, more startling comments about why artists don’t necessarily have to make money — but that’s another whole gig altogether.