Last week I was accused of copying someone else’s work. I was really bewildered by the accusation, since I’ve been doing what I do for so long, and met this person so recently I didn’t see how they could think that was even possible.
I know I have felt copied many times. And I know that feeling sucks.
But being on the other side of it, I could see even more than ever – that unless someone is actually actually making copies of and selling your work it’s really best to just let it go.
I could see how this person thought that my work is too similar to hers – on the surface. But she didn’t take any time to get to know me or find out where the inspiration came from. Which, of course, I don’t do either when I feel like someone is copying me!
From where I sit, I can see that I have a few close friends and about 20 online acquaintances who do the exact same thing that this person thinks I copied from her. I’ve known those people longer and they’ve been doing their thing for longer so if I was going to copy someone if would be that group of people, not this person I just met.
It’s obvious I didn’t copy her. And there is nothing I can say that will change that she feels copied.
It’s a crappy situation.
With so many people sharing so much creative work online, this can be a really tricky grey area.
When you see someone do something that you think was your idea first – ugh!
Bringing your Creative Dreams into the world is so freaking vulnerable + scary. And then to go through all of that, to have your idea stolen? ARGH!
It makes you feel hopeless. Like this is more evidence that your dream will never happen for you. Like you can’t trust in the goodness of people. Like it’s not safe to share your creative ideas with the world.
It reminded me of last summer when I met Jess from Seek Your Course. She was traveling around North America, putting on Creativity Workshops and meeting with Creative Leaders.
She wanted to get to know us and also learn more about our challenges and brainstorm ways to overcome them.
She told me that the #1 challenge of other Creative Leaders is COPYING.
“COPYING?” I said, “No, that’s not a problem.”
And Jess told me about how people will take a weekend workshop with someone, and then turn around and start teaching that same course. Like, using their exact templates and techniques. They actually photocopy other people’s materials and use them to teach from!
Now that is NOT a tricky grey area. That’s illegal and lame.
And really – the internet is FULL of copying. Often I land on a new website and am BLOWN AWAY by how it looks exactly like Famous Blogger’s website, right down to language used, and products and services offered for sale.
(Which is why I am always talking about how bringing your dream to life is NOT about finding the right map to follow, because then you end up with a cheap copy of someone else’s dream)
And that’s sad but still – I don’t think it’s a problem for a true Creative Leader.
Real or imagined – your copycats are NOT your competition.
Because people aren’t buying your product or service on its own – they’re buying your product or service animated by your creative essence.
Sometimes The Copycats are really successful.
If someone is straight-out copying other people’s work and selling it – their creative essence is blocked. Which doesn’t mean no one will want their work.
Other people whose creative essence is blocked, people who are afraid of having it truly be un-blocked, will be drawn to them. Because they are a safe person – they’re not going to push them out of their block-ness and into the dangerous wildness of being in their creative essence. They get to play with the creative stuff but stay totally on the surface.
So to the person being copied it can feel like the copy-er has stolen their potential clients.
But they haven’t. Those people probably wouldn’t have bought from you because they’re not ready for someone who is un-blocked enough in their creative essence to create their own stuff. That’s too scary for where they are right now.
Same goes for that tricky grey area where people just feel like they’re being copied. A thousand people can be doing the same thing – but everyone is going to bring their unique creative essence to the way they are doing it. And if you’re working online – there can easily be room for thousands of people to be doing the same thing.
We can only teach/give what we ARE.
Goodness, look at the online mixed media art journaling community! Such a huge, thriving community of people basically all doing the same thing: mixed media art journaling.
And yet, when I think about some of my favourite teachers in that community, people like Effy Wild, Samie Harding, Tamara LaPorte – you can see that they’re all teaching the same thing and each doing it in a totally unique way.
They’re teaching from their creative essence.
Their students want to learn creative journaling, but they come to them, specifically, for who they are.
But getting there is a journey.
In most things, we start by copying/emulating. When I started leading healing and meditation circles, and teaching classes on spirituality, I was doing so from a curriculum.
While I did this, I was doing what I could to bring my creative essence into what I was teaching and was developing my own creativity workshops on the side, bringing in everything I knew from 10 years of living as an artist – which, in my experience, brought spirituality to life in a way that nothing else could.
I kept on developing my own ideas and approaches until eventually I could no longer teach from someone else’s curriculum, and I left that spiritual center to start my own thing so I could teach MY ideas.
It’s not wrong to start out copying.
Just name your sources. Ask their permission if you want to sell what they’ve taught you, if they don’t give it – respect that.
If, instead of jumping in and starting to teach/sell before you’ve developed your own style/technique/approach, you take some time to develop your work – you’ll be amazed by how quickly your unique style and voice will emerge.
Then you’ll have something cool and different to teach/sell.
I’ve been studying what I teach for 20 years.
Right now my focus is on deep, deep integration. At the deepest levels I can access.
When someone works with me what they’re getting beneath the surface of the program is TRANSMISSION. To learn from someone who walks their talk opens up permission in the deepest parts of ourselves, to discover and embrace our unique truth.
I believe this is the most valuable thing anyone can teach.
Working with someone who walks their talk is a totally different experience from working with someone who doesn’t live from that deep down soul-connection to their creative essence, even if they put on a good show, say all the right things and have their work beautifully packaged.
I had a teacher who was unable to walk his talk. At first, it was confusing and sad. Over time, it created more and more chaos and division in the whole community until he had no choice but to leave.
I got to see first hand what happens when a leader doesn’t lead from within, which helps me in my commitment to doing what I can to stay in alignment with my creative essence, and then to let my work come from there. (This is also why people always say that I have such a unique style – because I’m not focused on what it looks like, I’m focused on how deeply connected I am to my creative essence.)
The most important thing to remember about copying is this:
People can only copy external things. They can’t copy your essence.
NO ONE else has YOUR creative essence.
NO ONE ELSE can stop you from succeeding. (I promise.)
Stay focused on doing your best work and being true to your creative essence.
Unless they are truly harming your business in some way – leave the copycats alone, it’s a waste of energy.
It’s better to use that energy to stay focused on doing your best work and being true to your creative essence. Then you can’t lose – no matter what anyone else is doing.