When Inspiration Becomes Imitation

There’s a fine line between being inspired by someone and blatantly copying them. In an Instagrammable world where connecting with other creatives is a tap away, it’s become all too easy to devour someone’s hard work and regurgitate it as your own. A gross analogy, but fitting nonetheless. Since starting my blog back in late 2015, multiple aspect of what I’ve posted has been duplicated at some point or another. Specific photos I’ve arranged have been recreated down to the last detail, lines from my writing have been plucked out and passed off as their own, and my entire ‘About Me’ page has been copied and pasted, the only change being my name backspaced in the place of others.

“That’s wild, who would do that?”

A lot of people, and it sucks.

Imitation is not the highest form of flattery. As dramatic as it sounds, seeing my work copied is heartbreaking. Taking something from a morsel of an idea to a fully fledged thing(!) that you’re proud of takes time, effort, passion, more ideas, determination, more time, and a little (or a big) piece of you.

And then it’s on someone’s page a week later.

In the past, the more it would happen, the less I would want to share. Why keep doing my best when it’s just going to be ripped off anyway? Why do all this hard work just to spoon feed others ideas? 

Because I love what I do, and I do what I love.

As disheartening as copy cats are, ‘quitting’ blogging has never crossed my mind. For me, there were three key reasons I started my blog.

  1. I love writing and talking, whether it be about myself or whatever I’m loving at the moment.
  2. I love taking photos. I wouldn’t call myself a photographer, but I love creating beautiful pictures, even if it’s just using my phone to take a photo of an eyeshadow palette.
  3. I love social media and blogging. I ran this tumblr account for years and loved making a website look beautiful with interesting images and layouts. I wanted to create a space where all of these interests could come together, and this blog was the answer. As long as I keep writing, taking photos, and sharing things online, my blog will always exist because my passion will always be there.

Someone once likened my dedication to blogging as “a religion”, and when I think about why that is, I think it’s because my creative motto has always been ‘create what you would consume’. I create what I would want to read about, or what I would double tap. This mindset helps me decide what I want to produce, stops me from imitating other creatives, and helps keep things authentic – not to mention keeps me sane in an era where stagnant Instagram growth and algorithm woes make you doubt yourself.

“But people copy others all the time, just look at the fashion industry?”

I agree, but I also can’t compare the two. The fashion industry relies on people setting trends and others following them. The world of ‘creatives’ doesn’t, and shouldn’t, work like that. But what I’ve learnt over time is that I sometimes think people don’t even realise they’re copying others. So, here are some pointers and advice I’d give if you suspect you might be following in the footsteps of your favourite ‘grammer just a little too closely, or to maybe make you aware if you hadn’t realised.

How To Distance Yourself From Your Favourite Creative

Expand your horizons – If you constantly find inspiration for your own creative pursuits from just one person, or a very limited number of sources, cut that out. When I met one of my favourite creatives Margaret Zhang at the H&M x Elle #LadyLike Night, she told me she doesn’t keep up with what others are doing – and it’s true! For someone close to having a million Instagram followers, she herself follows less than 50 people, and they’re mostly hairdressers because she said she “can’t do hair.” Yes, not keeping up with others in your field feels counterintuitive, because everyone wants to follow and support each other. But if other’s ideas are filling your mind and not leaving room for your own creative processes, remove yourself. Unfollow your faves for a month and see what kind of ideas or direction you feel like going in. I sound unsupportive, but I only regularly check in with a handful of other bloggers. I read their posts and adore their Instagrams, but that’s because their content is so beautiful that I can’t possibly recreate it myself. When I do feel myself being a little too inspired by their work, I start again and inject heaps of myself into an idea to take it as far away from their original creation.

Credit them – If you’re taking inspiration from someone, credit them, and make it obvious. Simply hiding their tag within a photo or crediting them at the bottom of the page isn’t enough. The more you credit people, the more you’ll realise how often you’re mirroring someone’s work. I credit people all the time. In my monthly favourites if I’m recommending a novel, I’m going to tell you who recommended it to me as well. I will not pass off some great idea or discovery as my own. Even my favourite drag queens credit where they found inspiration for their looks. I love seeing how they drew inspiration from designers, illustrations, album artwork, photographers, musical artists and more, because you see their creative process, it’s genuine, and I find myself relating to them more.

Realise there’s no one way to do things – Seeing someone’s success makes you want to recreate their final product, because you too want success. Not only is that unauthentic, but that person’s process isn’t the only way to become successful. This relates back to the first point. If you’re expanding your horizons and inspirations, you won’t feel almost ‘obliged’ to perform in a certain way in order to ‘fit in’ with what every other blogger/influencer/Youtuber/photographer/creative/artist is doing.

Remember why you started in the first place – Like I said before, I always remember why I started blogging, and it’s good to always go back to that idea. Before you were flooded with the content of others, what drew you to your creative field? Was it because you had ideas you just had to produce and share? Or was it the ‘effortless’ (read: not effortless at all) success of others? Going back to the basics and remembering why you started your creative pursuits will help clarify where you want to take them in the future.

Experiment and stay authentic – You will never find your own path if you keep following in the footsteps of others. Try new things. Spice things up. Do what you normally wouldn’t, or thought you shouldn’t because others aren’t. I think a big part of being successful is being authentic. My favourite Instagram influencers, YouTubers and bloggers are the ones who are themselves and show their genuine identity (to a certain extent, of course). People are smart, they will catch on to an insincere personality in the long run. And on your part, you will burn out if you find yourself continuously imitating other’s creative pursuits.

Then there’s the other side to this situation.

What To Do If Your Work Gets Copied

Realise you have a right to be upset – Because the world of social media can at times be misogynistically considered ‘girly’, ‘superficial’ and ‘narcissistic’, it’s easy to think your feelings towards other’s copying your online work is insignificant. But your feelings aren’t invalid. A couple of similarities might be genuine coincidences, but if you’re feeling frustrated after the continuous imitation of your work, you have a right to be.

If money/reselling is involved, involve the law – This relates more so towards artists and graphic designers and the reselling of their work. If your work is being copied and sold, 150% get the law involved. It’s every artists worst nightmare, but your art is worth fighting for.

Speak up, then move on – If someone is continuously copying your work, tell them you’ve noticed. Depending on the situation, they might not have realised. If they know what they’re doing and they continue to do so after you’ve approached them and even maybe given them some advice, the block button is there for your convenience.

Overall, the line between being inspired by someone and blatantly imitating their work is a moral grey area. It’s important to know who you are and keep in mind what you’re trying to achieve in your creative pursuits. Your identity and these aims will change over time as you change, but it’s important to allow yourself the chance to organically change. In the grand scheme of things, copying someone else’s work will only disadvantage you.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Have you ever found yourself copying someone else a little too closely? How did you change that? And have you ever found others to copy you? How did you get through that? Leave me a comment below, I’d love to keep this conversation going!

And if you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, give this post a “like” so I know!

All the love,

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7 thoughts

  1. Omg Jess I had no idea this was happening to this extent to you!! That’s so so shitty but you’ve so eloquently expressed yourself and explained the issue here. Fingers crossed this post wakes up all the imitators! xx

    Like

  2. I read something similar to this a few months ago and you are so right! It is so annoying and heart wrenching. It is really hard work sometimes thinking of what to write or you have a brilliant idea for a post and know you haven’t seen it anywhere else and then a week or so later someone writes something extremely similar to what you have spent your precious time creating but they just change a couple of small details and pass it off as their own idea. Very frustrating.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve noticed people do copy a lot around here… even just small sentences and phrases from my writing… also ideas are always stolen, sometimes without credit. Even when given credit, I feel a little robbed of my own creativity but especially when not acknowledged at all.

    I’ve unfollow people like that but I didn’t think there was a block button like you mentioned? I need to find it lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow that’s annoying! I’m sorry this has also happened to you. Since I don’t follow many bloggers I sometimes fear this is happening more than I realise, but then I also don’t want to know, ignorance is bliss haha. Ooh when I mentioned the block button I was talking about Instagram, I’m unsure of a block button for WordPress? Tell me if you find one! xx

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That must be incredibly frustrating! I’ve had similar things happen to me, but more so with my personal endeavours and style, and by family members, which makes it somewhat a bit harder for me to tackle. One of my best friends is an incredible artist and recently had a piece blatantly copied, and I felt offended on her behalf! It’s incredibly rude, I don’t know how you manage to keep a cool head about it! xx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s horrible for your friend! Yeah to me copying personal style is hard to judge because fashion is sadly so fast and disposable now days, but if someone is literally mirroring your wardrobe it’s like um we see you haha. Thank you, there just comes a point after the initial reaction where you just have to move on and continue doing what you love! Thank you for reading x

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