Do you know what’s ridiculously hard? BEING ORIGINAL. It’s harder than doing backflips on a dragon during the Autumn equinox while eating an apple and building a model pirate ship. (No, no, that’s not even a hyperbolic metaphor, stop looking at me like that.) Mostly everyone in the blogosphere is on the lookout for new ideas for post discussions or ways to spruce up their blog or make our blogging voices more interesting — just IDEAS IN GENERAL. We are all Treasure Hunters For Ideas.
And that is a good thing. Never ever be afraid to go frolicking through the internet looking for post inspiration. You don’t have to rely 100% on your brain to come up with everything from scratch.
The trouble is figuring out when you’re a Treasure Hunter or a Pirate.
This post was inspired because I see my post ideas go wandering around — with zlich credit. IT BREAKS MY FRAGILE DRAGONISH HEART, FOLKS. If I inspire a post for you, I am actually honoured. It’s kind of awesome to know my brain is that fabulous. (#humble) But I work super hard to try and spin old topics in a new way and think up bookish things we haven’t discussed in a while. So when people take that topic and use it and I KNOW they read my blog, it just makes me super sad.
“But but but how do I know if I’ve been ‘inspired‘ or if I’m ‘copying‘, Cait? HOOOOOW?” you ask.
This is exactly what I want to talk about. IT’S HARD TO KNOW. Even I make mistakes sometimes. (Yes, I, Queen of All, confess to mistakes. What even is this life.) So I have a list of general guidelines. BUT THEY ARE ONLY GUIDELINES. I’m rather a deluded pineapple myself and spend 84% of my blogging life making it up as I go along. But I think if you focus on being a) polite, and b) considerate, with all things blogging — then you’re on the right track.
SYMPTOMS OF POTENTIAL TREASURE HUNTING
- You read someone else’s blog post and think, “That’s an excellent topic but that blogger didn’t talk about THIS ANGLE OF IT” and then you go write the post. You say “This was inspired by Genius Blogger”. You write your point of view marvellously. The End.
- You find a list of blogging prompts from google. Or you look through the archives of Top Ten Tuesday. You find a list of prompts on Pinterest. You write blog posts = you don’t need to credit. These prompts are for everyone to interpret!
- You’re reading my post about Siblings in Books and you see I wrote a list of “sibling cultures” and I mention something about buying gifts for siblings and then using them for yourself (I am genius) and you suddenly think “OH I WANT TO WRITE A POST ABOUT BOOKISH GIFTS”. You go write the post. You do NOT need to credit me. (When someone else’s blog posts sparks and idea that is detached from yours, no credit needed.)
- You’re writing a post about Heroines in YA and suddenly you see Fellow Bob Blogger has written one about the same topic. CUE GASP. You did not copy. You’re okay. You decide to delay your post for a few weeks and then you post and you do not need to credit. (But if you’re still super worried, you can link people to Bob’s discussion.)
- You want to post about unique formatting, ooooor author-to-reader relationships ooooor your criteria for a good epic fantasy. Other people have done these before. A million times. This is okay. Write the post in YOUR style and with YOUR voice. No credit needed.
SYMPTOMS OF POTENTIAL PIRACY
- You have a great idea for a discussion post, you write it…then you vaguely remember Fellow Bob’s Blog having done a similar thing and probably inspired you. You post anyway without credit because they won’t notice, right?? (Often they do notice and it hurts.)
- You see Fellow Bob’s post and they totally botched that topic (in your opinion) so you write your viewpoint logically and sensibly and post. You don’t credit Fellow Bob. This is not nice.
- You see someone’s tweet so you turn it into a blog post. No credit, because it’s just a tweet, right? #No
- You see how I call my followers “pineapples” so you call your followers “blueberries”. It’s still copying, my friend. (Unless you run a very fruity blog and it fits with your already established theme, I suppose.)
- You need an image for your post, so you take Fellow Bob’s photo. You credit them, but you don’t personally ask permission. No. This is like taking Bob’s cake and saying “I got this from Bob” but you didn’t ASK Bob if you could have the cake. Bob might share? Bob might not. Always ask personally or it’s stealing. (Unless you’re specifically promoting Bob. Like you’re doing a round-up of your favourite instagrammers and you put some of Bob and Algernon’s photos in your post with the ONLY intention of sending people to follow their instagram and promoting them. That’s cool. Do that. I don’t believe you need to ask to promote others.)
- You really like that super unique post Fellow Bob did, so you do your own version. Maybe you do link to Bob’s, but you basically just rewrite Bob’s post in your own words with a few extra twists. Unless you’re adding to Bob’s post, don’t do this. Don’t rewrite. #pirate
An important thing to note is that bloggers don’t OWN ideas.
Doing “pros and cons” reviews don’t belong to anyone. Bookish photography doesn’t belong to anyone. Taking a #shelfie doesn’t belong to anyone. Tweeting #bookwormproblems doesn’t belong to anyone. Discussing feminism in YA doesn’t belong to anyone.
But look at HOW you’re doing it. Are you trying to put your own twist on things? Are you vaguely aware someone else is heavily inspiring your post? If in doubt, ask the person you’re being inspired by. If in doubtier doubt, just don’t do it.
Although…what is “original” anyway??! There’s nothing truly new. I let myself be inspired by other bloggers, though I do mostly attempt to forge my own path because I find conjuring up ideas very very fun (the dragon secretaries are also very helpful in their ability to make inspiring teas and cake). But I DO post topics that others have covered. There’s honestly nothing completely new out there. In fact, I’m 99% sure someone has written a post just like this, somewhere in the vague tangles of the internets.
Being Inspired Is…
…seeing someone eating cake so you go eat some watermelon. You’re both eating. But different things.
Being Inspired Is…
….seeing someone take a bookish flat-lay photo and taking one yourself, but using different objects and different arrangements.
Being Inspired Is…
…reading my post on How Realistic Should Books Be? and then being Kaja or Jo and expanding on my topic in specific directions while crediting me for starting the discussion. (I loved both your posts, by the way!) My topic inspired them, but they explored avenues I had not and came up with marvellously unique and interesting posts.
Inspiration vs Copy is always going to be hard to figure out.
But it is important okay?! Because some of us work reeeeally hard to attempt to be original and it’s sad for that to be made void by people “borrowing” without a care.
All the same: DON’T STRANGLE YOURSELF BY OVERTHINKING THIS. Half the time it’s a coincidence that your idea looks like someone else’s. Half the time it’s not even worth getting hung up over. JUST BE AWARE! Credit those who inspire you. Delay posts if they’re too similar to someone else’s right now. Try to spin old topics in a new light.
EVERYONE is going to write posts that sound the same at some point. And that’s okay! Ideas are universal. It’s how you twist them to make them YOURS them that makes the difference.
Be a treasure hunter, not a pirate.