There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt. —Audre Lorde
Can you imagine if good ol’ Audre had a blog? She was a black woman who worked as a poet and teacher in the 1950s. She was nearly blind, lesbian and believed that having a great idea wasn’t nearly as cool as executing it. I’d love to have her stuff pop up in my Google Reader.
Recently, I’ve had some deep and really inspiring conversations with a few bloggers who are struggling with the difference between inspiration and imitation, and how to respond to evidence of both. For example — if you blog about your meals, what do you do when someone starts using the same format on his or her own site? If you post your running splits, does it bother you when your readers do the same, in the exact same way?
How about a more polarizing example: blog names. If your blog is “Katy is Kool,” is it wrong for someone to start up “Kate is Cool?”
Here are my thoughts:
- You can’t be a successful blogger (I’ll define “success” in a minute) without having some interest in making a difference to your readers. If you want your ideas to be yours alone, you’re better off keeping a private diary.
- Blogging is, by nature, a bit narcissistic…even those with good intentions are still saying, in essence, “I’m important. Do like I do.” So don’t be surprised when someone does like you do.
- There are no new ideas. Honestly. You think you’re the first person to take pictures of your food? Show off your yoga talents? Match red heels with a black dress? Nope.
- What you think is imitation may be an innocent case of inspiration…so before you assume the worst, consider that the person who is copying you is doing it with the best of intentions.
I recently gave the advice to one good blogging friend to “kill ’em with kindness,” and I think that’s the best approach. Go to the person that is copying your ideas, and tell him or her — “Wow, it looks like my post on XYZ really inspired you! I’m so glad I made a difference. I’m going to post a link on my blog and show how you’re using my ideas in your own life!” Their response should help you decide if they are well-meaning copycats or truly evil thieves.
If you’re blogging in your own voice, putting passion into every word and writing from the heart, the copycats will come and go. You’ll build a community of people that care about you and will come back for every post. And those copycats will fade out or find their own sweet spot.
Bottom line: I believe very strongly in using your blog for good — and remembering that every time you hit publish, people all over the world are reading it. It’s a responsibility and a burden. Your hard work should pay off for YOU in page views and subscriptions (and in ad revenue!), but if that’s your only goal, I think you’re missing the point.
To me, success comes in tweets, emails, comments and more from people who say “you really inspired me with this post.” Those make me crumble. And if they take my ideas and work them into their own lives, I feel like I’ve made a connection.
Speaking of crumbling, I am honored to be on the list of Top 50 Most Influential Healthy Tweeps — did you see the other names on the list? Amazing. Check it out here and you can follow the complete list here on Twitter.
**IMPORTANT NOTE: Blogging is a business for many of us, so please don’t think that I’m trying to take anything away from the massive amounts of time and energy it takes to put up quality work. I have no tolerance for theft, so if someone is stealing your work, word-for-word, or taking your pictures without credit, contact them and respectfully ask them to cease and desist. If that doesn’t work, report them to their blog host, and if they don’t respond to any of that, feel free to get a bit evil. My points are about the people that take ideas and use them to document their own lives.***
I’m dying to know what you think — and it’s OK if you disagree with me or think I’m being too lenient! Let me know in the comments.