Fear of accidental plagiarism

Fairly often I'll write or say something, and then afterwords start questioning whether I really just made that up or whether it was something I've heard before somewhere else. Then I get paranoid people think I'm trying to steal their ideas or someone else's ideas, and that I'm unknowingly making myself look like a total ass.

Is It Normal?
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  • Apart from in science and technology, truly original ideas are very rare.

    In the field of fiction, various people have declared that there are only 3, 5, 7, 9, or 36 different plots. The precise number is debatable, but what is clear that it's impossible for the literally millions of stories that have been told since humans first started telling tales to each be utterly unique. But it is entirely possible for all the details of each of those stories to be different, for the way the story is delivered to vary hugely and for the impact of the story on a particular audience in a particular time and place to be wildly different.

    Knowingly copying someone else's work is lazy and dishonest; striving to be original just for the sake of being original is silly. Fretting about unwittingly repeating something someone else has said or written can easily turn into an excuse for saying and writing nothing. It's one of those situations where Voltaire's adage about the best being the enemy of the good applies. Mistakes are an inevitable part of life, and so the trick is learning how to accept that you've screwed up, try to learn from that and move on.

    Nobody with any sense should criticise you for unknowingly repeating something they've said, or for writing something that repeats what they've written in a different form. When you do that, you're demonstrating that you've accepted and internalised their concepts and thoughts (which, most likely, were a development of someone else's ideas), and most people appreciate that sort of endorsement.

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  • Id have to hear an example I cant at all relate to that

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  • Dude literally this happens to me so much. Because even if you re word something it can still be considered plagiarism. And I don’t want to go to jail for plagiarism so yeah it scares me too lmao. But I think it is normal because this is common with other people as well.

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  • I am basically the same when doing an assignment.

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  • So you live in a Philip k Dick world.

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    • Yeah, but less fun and I haven't met Harrison Ford yet :/

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      • Yeah it just reminded me of dick having that “breakdown” and up until his death claiming that all his stories were real. They just happened in different timelines and stuff like that. His imagination wasn’t entirely his own.

        Ford seems pretty fucking grumpy most of the time anyway.

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        • I didn't know that about him. Given the types of storylines he seemed to come up with though, that doesn't entirely surprise me. Poor guy.

          Grumpy is part of the charm though with Mr. Ford. Hot, grumpy, stubborn, with a sly smirk.. sign me up lol.

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          • Oh yeah it’s pretty interesting, he has this breakdown and spent the rest of his life campaigning that it was real.

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  • Best thing to do is just study what you can and integrate until you can speak about it knowledgeably and without directly quoting something

    In community college I was told I didn't follow MLA format or something because I didn't cite a source for talking about noun declensions

    "The only way you'd know about that is if you looked it up, that's not taught in English class"

    "That is correct, I learned about it in Latin class, where I also earned a maxima cum laude certificate and silver medal in a national Latin exam"

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