If you read the title of this blog and immediately thought to yourself, “yes, they are/have!” then I graciously ask you allow me the space to say “Congratulations!”. Theft of ideas or (a much friendlier term) emulating a style within the world of art is by far more common than and as long in the tooth as an original thought. Which basically means it is safe to say this practice of creative swindling/borrowing will outlive you and taxes. Hence, you can’t halt the wave but I believe there is a way for us to ride it into the sunset like many greats before have.
(Please note, this blog is not referencing true plagiary. Someone claiming authorship without permission to something specifically owned and created by someone else is never OK. What we are going to focus more so on is mimicking style and approach. Example: Someone taking my poem “Me and Food Got Beef!” and including it in a published book claiming they wrote it is not what we’re discussing. Someone writing an extended metaphor poem about love/lust where each line references food [like “me and Food Got Beef!], is what we’re discussing here)
Let’s begin with me congratulating you. Why would I say “Congratulations”? Where is my compassion for the victim in this instance? Does this mean I’ll empathize with someone who has ripped off work I put a great deal of labor into? Fudge NO with a cherry on top, I respond. I’ll explain my “NO” later, first let’s address the positive. Aside from the old saying how mimicry is some great form of flattery, you being copied is LITERALLY you “changing the game” (as some of us young folk enjoy saying). Great influential individuals do not shape society by having swarms of people throw roses at their feet or carry them on their shoulders. They do so by having fellow craftsman follow in their steps. By introducing a new ingredient that is eventually threaded into our culture by the masses.
OK, now we’re sitting here realizing “yeah, I am a game changer!”, but what kind of a burden comes with it? Aside from the obvious egotistical frustration we ALL (capitols to emphasize myself included) endure seeing others get cheered for a style we molded, there comes the required attitude of holding a contention against being content.
Whether you are producing shows or writing books or competing in slams or simply living as a true artist in and/or out of the business, I believe your life cycle calls you to pave your own path. In order to do so there must be some form of consistency in your growth over extended periods of time. You inherit the fortunes of your past work, you showcase your current work, and you drop seeds for the future directions you have in mind. Those who copy how you move, will be waiting for your next step so they themselves know where to go next. Since it is your path and your seeds, how do they know what is to follow?
With that being said and now our skin feeling a bit thicker, let’s all have a reality check because there are some thorns on the bed we must be aware of (aka, what my above “NO” means). When possible, legally copyright your work. Be sure to not spill all the beans on what your plans are (That also makes sense marketing wise. Give us a build up! If you’re an imaginative person, romance your audience before having them come over). You must protect your ideas where you can. If you’re repeating the same exact thing over and over, the stunt in your growth is not because other people started copying you, it is because you’re repeating the same exact thing over and over (a time period I think we all have gone through and possibly will go through again in the future). Be purposeful in what you create. For many novices, I always suggest you constantly randomly experiment for a while before you began attempting to make solid plans. Once you’ve got your feet set though, it’s time to game plan.
We also must be aware of the ARTIST getting jealous of their ART. Yeah, I said it!!! I’ve actually seen artist become jealous of their own work. It is a mind blowing phenomenon that no one talks about! They watch others enjoy their creation and this awkward defensive stance gets taken by the creator like “Hey buddy! I wrote that. So stop drooling over my poem while reading it and start gazing at me with them starry eyes instead!” (OK, totally exaggerated but you get my point). This is where I’ve seen some claim “others” are biting their stuff, when in reality the love affair people have for their “stuff” and not the creator him/herself upsets them so they mask it by crying wolf.
Before I end this, let it be known all of which I’ve stated has been learned from my own failures. Let’s not be cute and call them mistakes, they were failures. I can live with them because I feel I’ve been educated by them. There is no pedestal for me to speak to you from, just a large self-dug hole I’ve been climbing out of.
Coming full circle, once again, “Congratulations”. If you weren’t before I hope you are now aware that each step you make should carry you into the momentum of the next one. Want to see something new or different in your community? Do it a few times and allow people to sincerely (and some bitterly) emulate your approach. This is how it grows. Timing is everything when releasing new information on current or upcoming projects. Vultures are everywhere, don’t panic, but be aware and peep the “bird’s eye” view of the entire situation. Besides, “POETRY” in itself is a form of writing. Even if you are writing original poems, writing poetry is not original. Hasn’t been for thousands of years, so basically we’re all “stealing” someone else’s idea/approach to creative writing and making it our own.