This post has appeared previously at Indies Unlimited.com.
Have you ever been intellectually robbed? Have you ever shared an idea with friends, only to see your inspiration copied with no credit given? I wanted to chastise you for feeling sorry for yourself, but a couple of my colleagues have already taken you to task. Are you awake and ready for a bit of ego building? I am happy to do it. Sip your cocktail of choice and relax. Here is my question: Why is it a good thing if people want to borrow your ideas or copy your style?
It is a hot and humid afternoon in Manhattan. Babe Paley exits La Grenouille, the luncheon appointment concluded and she exchanges parting pleasantries with a few ‘ladies who lunch’. The city air is completely still, and the heat that rises from the pavement is stifling. She casually removes the scarf knotted loosely around her neck, and so as not to lose it, ties it around the handle of her handbag in a soft, elegant bow. That effortless gesture is copied within weeks by stylish women across the country.
It is a windy day in Germany as Jacqueline Kennedy sits on the podium listening to speech after speech, smiling her now famously enigmatic smile. A gust of wind threatens to lift her pillbox hat from her head, and in an attempt to secure it, she dents it. The style catches on like wildfire, an accident soon copied by women all over the world.
I have dozens of these anecdotes. They cross all the art forms – dance, music, painting and literature. Fashion is the one that comes most naturally to me. Both of these famous women had an innate sense of style and had the confidence to glide serenely toward their goals, never doubting that their choices would be placed under a microscope, and blindly copied. They accepted the immediate imitation as part of being who they were.
Ok, I understand that an indie author is not Jackie Kennedy. But if you don’t think ideas are stolen from the most humble origins, let me give you a personal example.
Several years ago I decided to start a blog. I was pretty clueless as to what I needed to do, but I knew I needed to write somewhere beside my own blog in order to get experience and exposure. There was an e-magazine that I discovered on the Internet with exactly the sort of brief posts I was interested in writing. I contacted the owner on Facebook and in several subsequent emails, offered my services for free. I never received a response. Undeterred, I proceeded to write on my own blog about food, fashion, books, my dinner club or anything else I fancied. I discovered an interesting pattern. Within days of posting the link on Facebook to my blog a similar post would appear in the e-magazine. When it was 6 times in a row, I contacted the owner and informed her I was blocking her. My research indicates that she has been accused of this at least once before by another e-magazine. She is a very successful female entrepreneur.
At first I was pissed. I am a newbie! I offer you my services for free, and you steal from me? (She sold a lot of advertising on her site). There was nothing I could do about it. My husband said she was picking the low hanging fruit, and I needed to move on. I went to pound tennis balls and work off some anger and frustration. It occurred to me, as I envisioned her face on the balls as I crushed them, that I was looking at this completely wrong. My ideas were good enough for her to steal. This successful woman stole from little ol’ me! The light bulb went off in my head. My creativity wasn’t going to leave me, and I was just starting to understand this writing gig. The physical exertion had cleared my thinking and I was suddenly happy as I realized her theft confirmed what I was just beginning to realize – that I could do this. Writing interesting blog posts that people would want to read, that was just the beginning. Could I write a novel, a life-long goal? Well, I did.
That’s my story, friends. The important point is what does this mean to you? Do you keep track of your ideas? Do you have a way to store them, let them percolate, ‘see’ them? I think Pinterest is good for this. I love to play there. My ideas float with the dreams of others, mixing and cohabiting.
I also love post-it notes. This is my actual desk. Actually, it is my dining room table functioning as a desk. It allows me to spread out a bit, and keeps inspirational things close by. It seems to work.
Here’s the Lois twist: have people stolen ideas from you? Yes? Good for you! Celebrate that you are a creative thinker, a thought leader. I have embraced the fact that a side comment by me becomes a blog post elsewhere. It’s ok. The idea that a one liner inspires the thought process of another writer should give one tremendous confidence. I have learned, however, to keep those ideas for the next novel to myself.
I am not talking here about the theft of manuscripts and books. That is heinous. And if someone is making money from your ideas, that is wrong. What I am talking about is recognizing that you possess what it takes to be a thought leader. That you can become someone others will follow and attempt to emulate. Don’t you want that? This is a natural form of promotion, and a great way to sell your novel.
That was your ego boost for today, a little snack to munch while you enjoy your cocktail. Revel in your creativity and let it take you where it will.