Sometimes I get this from readers...
Hey man… You copied my idea. Last week, I wrote about what you just wrote about.
They feel the need to take the time out of their day to contact me and act like the sole arbiter of some idea that seems vaguely similar to mine.
I didn’t copy you.
What’s funny is, the biggest finger-pointers are usually the biggest culprits.
I have a good friend who has done very well in the writing space. I wrote something a little while back and she commented, saying something like Hmm… Sounds a lot like what I’ve written about.
Whoa! That came out of nowhere.
I gotta be honest — I panicked. Shit. Did I copy her? I didn’t mean to. This idea just hit me. I pulled out her book, dug through it, and sure enough, there it was. Not word-for-word, but pretty much the same concept I’d written about.
I felt bad. Right away, I went on my post and linked to her.
Later that week, I found an old video from another very well-known author in our space. And, low and behold, she’d written about the very same thing back in the early 90’s — basically verbatim with what my friend had just written.
On another note, I remember seeing, for the first time, the work of who turned out to be one of my favorite artists. He was so… Original. His style. His workshop. The way he presented his art. So cool.
Eventually, he created a scathing piece calling out people with big followings who copy other artists. Apparently some kid had basically swiped his style and created a bunch of work that resembled his.
Well, one day, I did a little research. I wanted to see who influenced this guy (my favorite artist). I found out he worked for another older, prominent artist for years, managing his workshop. So I dug him up. What was before me, I couldn’t believe. This guy, who I thought was so original, had toooootally copied this other artist in so many ways. It was apparent. But yet, here he was, just the other day, lambasting some kid for doing the same thing to him as he’d done to this other artist.
Here’s the thing…
We don’t own these ideas.
None of us do. Like many others (and I’m sorry if you’ve written about this too), I believe these ideas are little life forms. They float around waiting for people to grab them and use them. And they do this throughout mankind. Maybe this is why we humans are here. To facilitate these ideas. Maybe as soon as we stop doing this, we’ll all be destroyed and replaced by a more intelligent life form who can do it better. Who knows?
So what do we do?
I don’t know if we do anything. If someone’s copying you verbatim, sure, get mad. Go after them. Whatever. But if your work influences someone enough to put something of their own out into the world — even if it has your fingerprints all over it — maybe you should just smile knowing it’s not yours either.