It’s not flattering and it’s not childish. Copying goes beyond the school playground, with the kid who stole your artwork and mimicked your pencil case. It’s offensive, annoying and adds to your competitor list. And if you’re talented, successful or original – be sure it’s going to happen to you. So, here’s how you deal with competition in life.
The frustration behind imitation
Actions, words, style, creativity, mannerisms, all of the above… people will copy anything. As powerofpositivity.com says, it can be due to “envy” and low self-esteem. I’d also add admirers and people looking for quick success.
How many people mirror famous influencers in desire to achieve their popularity? The difference though between well-known people and individuals starting out: awareness. For stars like Kim Kardashian, having hoards of fans recreate her image only promotes her status. We know when a girl increases her butt, contours her cheeks, plumps her lips and wears skin-tight clothing – she’s a KK fan.
For newbies and those relatively unknown, who’s going to notice when someone steals their work? What happens if the stealer gets recognised as an original, and the true creator doesn’t receive credit? This happens repeatedly in the creative industries. Google research led me to numerous articles on comedians, designers, artists, photographers and bloggers etc., who feel frustrated about stolen creativity. A friend recently told me about the comedian Denis Leary infamously using his ex-friend Bill Hick’s jokes.
Despite social media helping to give a voice to those affected, some copycat offenders get forgotten or ignored. Beyoncé is no stranger to people suing her on copyright grounds; people often put side-by-side creations together to demonstrate her supposed stealing. In my opinion, these cases come and go – but fans will make a big deal if they believe someone is copying her. Kylie Jenner, Robin Williams, Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga and possibly every Kardashian has faced plagiarism accusations.
Effort, work, originality
In addition to not likely receiving credit when another person duplicates your work, you also lose originality. Each time a person feels inspired to recreate what you’ve done; you stand out a little less. And considering the emphasis we place on individualism (think how different Rihanna had to be to avoid Beyonce comparisons), this is a problem.
It’s a mockery of your commitment. I won’t forget seeing a blogger completely re-do a blog I published a day prior, writing the same sentiments, thoughts and feelings. The hours I had put in to research and brainstorm an idea I hadn’t seen before, only for thievery to occur.
Social media (and many articles) love telling us to only compete with ourselves. I’ve said it myself before: ‘I’m my biggest competitor’. Applied to exercise regimes and life goals (not comparing to peers), this advice rings true. The situation changes when someone deliberately uses you for inspiration. Why? Well, who wants to look and read the same thing twice? You surly need to know how to deal with competition to come out on top.
As children, we’re usually taught copying is normal and natural. ‘It’s jealousy… ignore it’. People may assume you childish for speaking up about it. Perhaps that’s why many people don’t. If you avoid a copycat and turn the other way, you could be the one never looking back. Let’s say you’re approached by a person, asking to write a blog similar to yours. You kindly agree. Two weeks later, another similar post, followed by a blog that suspiciously echoes your voice. Again, you do nothing. Months later and they’re successful, generating income you’re not by taking ideas you haven’t marketed as well.
It might sound outlandish, but a trip down Hollywood reveals this story isn’t a made-up concoction.
Taking material without credit
Quentin Tarantino, according to Business Insider, has admitted to stealing ideas for every single movie he’s made. The difference being, rather than pawning concepts as his own, he admits to his lack of innovation.
Anyone who’s ever attempted a creative endeavour, will know copying has to happen at some stage. Who isn’t guilty of emulating a colour scheme, blog layout or outfit of the day? As humans, we learn by looking at others. We have to imitate on some level. Without Instagram, I wouldn’t have thought to blitz fruit into a bowl and sprinkle with more fruit and seeds on top.
So, on that basis, it’s about factoring specifics and acknowledging when someone is doing something that’s not the norm; admitting when your work and aesthetic purposely derive from someone else. If you’re a blogger, it’s no good just linking a blog and saying so-and-so made me think about this or wrote something similar, if you’ve actually mentioned the same points throughout.
Picasso said great artists steal – I believe creative genius’s notice gaps in the market and understand how to implement their own ideas in a way that won’t plagiarise an initial creator. Often, they source inspiration from numerous sources, spinning a new perception.
How to deal with competition in life
1. Specify your work
Whatever you’re doing (art, photography, branding), know directly what you represent and how you define yourself. As a blogger, I feel (you may disagree), my blog did something unique. Rather than focus on lifestyle, fashion, beauty etc., I researched ideas relating to issues facing young women, looking for ways to challenge typical norms such as morning routines, sexual regret and stereotypes around female sexuality, using reputable links to back-up evidence and forming journalist style writing. Have I seen people do this since – yes. Do I believe they’ve copied – yes.
2. Confront the thief
However much I believe my work stolen, or however convinced you are someone has recreated your idea, it’s better to not automatically assume and act confrontational – unless you can 100% prove a person has directly taken. It could be a coincide or another source. With writing, you rarely if ever can take something entirely from scratch. Two people can read the same article and form the same argument. Can you be positive you haven’t unintentionally read a piece that inspired you?
3. Continue improvement
I remember a friend telling me: Instagram is a replica of every other social media. It took Twitter’s Dm’s, Snapchat video features, Facebook’s overall photo uploading and captioning.
As Nova Southeastern University suggests, influencing is not copying. The lines between can get very blurred, and if you’re doing well, there’s high chance for influencing to stem further. To deal with people who blur those lines – always innovate your work. Keep up with what’s happening, notice the gaps you’re not filling.
4. Don’t brag
Boasting or publicly celebrating success will naturally encourage others to see what you’re doing. If you’re happy to help and want people to notice: go right ahead. If you’d rather people didn’t analyse your effort, I recommend you stay quiet and let your talent speak for itself.
5. Be original
Aim to do something unique (as you possibly can). Get to the point where people can’t secretly copy, because it would look glaringly obvious.
Children miss out on a valuable lesson growing up. When a child feels aggravated about copying, rather than belittling and making them feel silly, we should realise they have a right to feel upset. For the kids copying, we should encourage them to trust their own instincts.
From childhood to adulthood, imitaition happens. Whether unintentional or not, owning creativity is messy and complicated. We can’t always stop the people who steal, but we can learn to deal with competition and come out stronger.
How do you feel? Do you have an approach for how to deal with competition, and have you felt victim to copycats past teenage years? Here is my first post on copycats – notice my very Gothic 2017 outfit.