First off, I want to start by saying that this post is not about book blogger drama or anything bad that happened in the blogosphere. This is something that I’ve been thinking about based on one of my own posts. (I know this topic can be touchy for some people, so I thought I’d start with a little disclaimer.)
Last week, I put up a discussion post about Books that Intimidate Us, which was inspired by a post I’d seen on Paper Fury called Do You Procrastinate Reading Books You’re 99% Positive You’ll Love? When I read Cait’s post, she reminded me of yet another post I’d written awhile back about how I can’t seem to finish series – and I started to think about other types of books that I kind of want to read, but they scare me for some reason or another – books like the classics, for instance.
That was all fine and dandy. I wrote my post – and had lots of fun doing it. I was really happy with the way it turned out. I spent my requisite hours searching for gifs and hit Publish. The end.
It wasn’t until a few hours later when I went back and reread the post that I started to have a sort of sinking feeling in my stomach. Did this post sound too much like a Cait post? I mean, it’s not like I had started offering people cake or threatening to rule the world or calling people pineapples or anything (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, go read some of Cait’s discussions – it will all become very clear). But somehow the tone felt almost too Caitish to me. I actually think the thing that pushed it over the edge for me was that I had used a smaller font for my asides (something that Cait does all the time – and that I used to do once in a while, but I am technically challenged and literally forgot how to do it for awhile and had just re-figured it out again).
So, I went back and reread Cait’s post, and it made me feel even more uneasy – I knew that she had mentioned books with hype and books in series. I sent people to her post in the hype section and I had written a whole post about the series thing, so obviously I’d been thinking about that for a while. But then I noticed that she mentioned big books at the end of her post too (another one of my points) – I’d forgotten that was even in her post, but I’m sure it stuck subconsciously. I had a lot of points that Cait hadn’t made, and I was coming at the issue from a slightly different angle, but I couldn’t help but wonder … Was I being a copycat? (Or a copyCait?)
I decided the best thing to do was to tackle the issue head-on. I emailed Cait and told her about the similarities I’d seen and just plain apologized (this will serve as her public apology – you know, like I’m some sort of public official who needs to set the record straight). Because this is Cait we’re talking about, she very graciously accepted my apology and told me that, while she did see the likenesses in our posts, she saw the differences too. Cait deserves cake for her sweetness, there is no doubt in my mind (I wonder if I can find Australian cake delivery services?).
The whole thing got me thinking about how hard it is to walk that fine line between striving to emulate a blog you admire and outright copying it. You can find a million and three posts about how to make your blog more interesting and followable, but we don’t want to ALL be the same. What fun would that be? I’ve recently been making Pinterest-ready title images for my blog based on advice I’ve read – and I love them, but I do notice that maybe it adds to the fact that my blog looks a bit more like other blogs I follow. I think in this case, the positives outweigh the negatives, but I’m keeping it in mind … Then there’s bookish photography. I see it on other blogs and LOVE it! I’m not a great photographer myself, but I’ve tried my hand at it once or twice. The more I’ve thought about it, though, the less I want to put a lot of time and effort into it since it’s not “my thing.” That doesn’t mean I’ll never do it again, but unless inspiration truly hits me, it probably won’t be something I feature a lot of. And that’s good – why try hard to do something that’s already being done really well elsewhere?
So, how do we balance this? After all, practically every idea has been done somewhere. Let’s face it, I’ve probably read a hundred posts that have discussed some element of my Books that Intimidate Us post – I just tried to put my spin on the topic (and then feared I hadn’t done it well enough). Heck, I’ve probably read at least ten posts about this topic in the past, but that doesn’t mean I can’t write about it.
I decided to think about some guidelines. Things I want to make sure I do in the future to avoid the feeling of being a post pirate:
- Let some time pass – I think if I would have waited a few weeks to put up my Books that Intimidate Us post, it wouldn’t have felt so copycat. This is tricky because I have a hard time with inspiration – if I don’t write a post right away when I think of it, I often lose the muse and can’t write it at all. But I could have written it and then sat on it for a few weeks. Sure, I would’ve had to come up with another post as well, but it would have been worth it.
- Credit the inspiration – This is key, and I did do this somewhat, but probably could’ve been even more obvious about it.
- Reread the inspiration – I let almost a week go by between when I read Cait’s post and when I wrote mine. Not that long, but I also read at least twenty other discussions in between. My brain doesn’t hold onto stuff that well. If I had reread Cait’s post, I would have seen more of the similarities and made some changes!
- Take blogging advice, but don’t try to incorporate it ALL – If we all start to all follow the same advice our blogs are all going to look pretty much the same, right? Luckily, there’s lots of good advice out there to pick and choose from!
- Take an idea and put a different spin on it – I did this with my Bookish Backdrops. There are lots of posts out there that use book covers for fashion inspiration (I’m guessing there are one or two people out there that believe they started this trend and are upset that it became such a huge thing). I liked that idea, but decided to have some fun with it and come up with decor based on covers instead. I’ve loved the results!
- Admit your mistakes – As soon as I started feeling “wrong” about the post, I emailed Cait and apologized. Unfortunately, not everyone will respond to an apology with complete forgiveness – I know that some bloggers get VERY upset about their ideas being “stolen” and they might not respond the way you’d like them to. Still, all you can control is yourself, so you just have to do your best to be honest and apologetic and hope for the best. (Thanks for being understanding, Cait.)
I think I’ve learned some good lessons from this. I’m guessing I’ll still make mistakes (after all, I’m human – I make plenty of them!), but I’ll certainly be more aware and make sure to be more careful in the future. That’s all I can do, right?
Have you ever written a post and then worried that it was too similar to someone else’s post? Ever been frustrated when you had an idea that was emulated a little too closely? What did you do about it? I want to know!