How to Steal


Stealing is one of the most important skills in life. But few people know how to do it well. The vulgar amateur steals money and cars; the moocher steals time and energy; and the sycophant steals attention and status. But the expert steals something far more valuable:

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. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.

— T. S. Eliot

And another:

Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise; seek what they sought. Seek the meaning behind their footsteps, and not upon the steps themselves. For in seeking the footsteps you shall be glancing only upon the next footprint. And you're sure to stumble upon an unforeseen obstacle.

— Mastuo Basho

For more: the history of the phrase "great artists steal."