October 5th, 2010 / 1:34 pm
Random & Snippets

Can we drop the “Talent borrows, genius steals” line yet? It was never really true, and sounds even more lame every time it gets “borrowed” in repetition.


  1. jereme

      can we murder the “there are no new ideas” bullshit while we are at it?

  2. Mike Meginnis

      I guess we could, but I would be sort of interested in hearing what about it is untrue to you. It seems to me, like most of these truisms, neither true nor untrue.

  3. ted

      Talent burrows, genius peels.

  4. deadgod

      […] to make manifest [the character of] Massinger’s indebtedness. One of the surest of tests is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion.

      –Eliot, “Philip Massinger”

      I don’t think the line is useful, either, Blake.

      I don’t think the distinction between “talent” and “genius” – which I’m guessing you’re irritated by, and which I think is worth preserving – is parallel to that between “borrowing” and “stealing”. Talent can be faked, and genius not – that is, there’s a talent to faking skill, but there’s no faking a direct communication of urgent feeling and thought. To put my thought another way, talent is technical, so one can learn a talent – one can go, by dint of application, from clumsy to deft; genius can be honed or dulled, kindled or smothered, but to me the word connotes a ‘gift’ there before any formal enablement.

      Maybe you’d be tempted to accept this formulation: talent impresses, where genius transforms.

      But the “borrow”/”steal” distinction is quite a potent metaphor for artistic influence. When you borrow something, you expect to be expected to return it; even if you think you might end up keeping it, you feel under the ‘law’ of not-ownership. When you steal something, from the moment it comes into your hands, you understand that it’s yours, even if you sense that you might or will be forced to compensate someone else’s loss.

      I think that’s a real difference, in terms of artists wresting technique, plot, theme, and so on from other hands: either one made those aspects hers or his, or one didn’t.

  5. alexisorgera

      stupid line.

  6. Lincoln Michel

      I definitely agree with this. Such a boring line.

  7. Michael

      “Talent may frolic and juggle; genius realizes and adds.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

  8. Steven Pine

      sure, and while we are at it let us get rid of the word ‘being’, just go to every dictionary and cut it out.

  9. Adam W.

      What about this: Idiots steal. Geniuses steal. So do average dudes. Also everyone has new ideas. But you still have to be good writer to be a good writer.

      That’s my motto.

      Another motto:
      Even shitty writers get laid sometimes.

  10. Tim

      Nice title for a collection or anthology.

  11. deadgod

      subtitle: Intermittent Wipers

  12. Daniel Bailey

      the show cops should be renamed “america’s got genius.”

  13. Daniel Bailey

      either that or “america’s got retards.”

  14. Sean

      It is a lame quote.

      Talent sorrows, genius kills?

      And the fuck are you going to steal from anyway?

      But maybe it means both talent and genius should learn from others before…

      Or maybe borrowing is sort of passive, and most likely watery.

      Genius goes in there and hits you in the head with a brick and rips your damn Blow Pop out your sticky fist.

      So, like all quotes, general enough to be true or not.

  15. chris r

      last time i got caught stealing, the head of “loss prevention” called me “an idiot.”

      he must not have been familiar with this quote.

  16. RyanPard

      Let’s start using this one instead.

  17. Gregorygerke
  18. Guest

      i’m so stupid

  19. Michael J Seidlinger

      Let’s put to rest “tour de force” when describing a novel or piece of literature in any capacity. It’s used to describe nearly every major press release exceeding 250pgs.

  20. Derek

      Something is not a fake because of its internal properties, but by virtue of a claim of identity.

  21. Umberto Eco

      .. that was weird, i tried to be Umberto Eco when i posted that, but “it” seemed to know i was lying.