Be Inspired But Don’t Copy
Don’t you feel like this should be written in big, fat letters everywhere on the web and social media?
So many people feel that it’s A-OK to copy other people’s work and pass it on as their own. It’s like a freaking epidemic!
Also frustrating and incredibly insulting.
If you have you ever been copied, you’re not alone.
The bright side is that this can help you develop thicker skin, brush the imitators aside and continue putting better and better work out there.
Because remember: imitators will ALWAYS be one step behind you.
Now let’s see what’s up with this crazy phenomenon and how to react if it affects you.
Inspiration VS Imitation
Let’s admit it:
There’s a very, VERY fine line between the two.
The endless stream of imagery you see on a daily basis can permeate our brain without you even realising it.
This happens *especially* if you put yourself out there and hustle to increase your social & web presence.
(And who doesn’t, really?)
Interacting with new people and bumping into new sources of inspiration is inevitable, especially on Instagram.
You might be wondering…
How can ANYONE navigate this conundrum with a clear conscience?
The answer, as Buzzfeed says, will surprise you: by being mindful of your time and head space.
Allow yourself a few hours before you begin any type of creative endeavour to just chill out, distance yourself from your inspiration sources and get in your zone.
That could mean putting together a new moodboard (bonus points if you do it the analogue fashion), sipping on some tea, reading a novel or just rearranging your workspace.
For me, this process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on the task at hand.
Note that this distancing process should be as conscious as possible.
Make it a point to work with your own mind, skill and talents and direct them into a new, unexplored space.
If what comes out after this is something you’ve already seen, scrape it. Cold turkey.
Something new that belongs just to you is right around the corner.
Being Inspired VS Copying: Is It OK To Copy Other People’s Work?
Short answer, no.
Long answer, still no.
Creating something (anything!) is a process. A winding, challenging and often excruciating process that can take days, weeks and even months or years of work.
What you the creator sees is just the final result.
You don’t get to see the blood, sweat and tears.
Or the agonising search for the perfect shape, colour or pattern.
Or the time spent obsessing over each and every little line that makes the end result so cohesive and compelling.
When somebody else comes along and copies the result, they end up with just an empty shell of an original work.
And, to its creator, that’s the insulting part: the apparent shortcut, the lack of consideration for all the effort and of course, the blatant rip-off.
It happens to everybody: artists, photographers, letterers, illustrators, fashion designers, web designers, content creators, you name it!
Which brings us onto the next topic…
How To Healthily Approach Any Creative Process
Here are 3 steps to follow in your daily routine…
#1 Put away your Instagram and close Pinterest
They are incredible time-suckers and, worst off all, they’ll contaminate your ideas.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t follow or support your favourite creators anymore.
Do it, but be mindful that you need your own space to create something new and original.
I struggle with this quite a lot and sometimes I find myself unconsciously opening Pinterest or whatnot in search of a particular image or vibe that had caught my in the past. Aaaand I unconsciously go down the scrolling rabbit hole.
So trust me when I say this, taking time to work on your own ideas without any distractions is super important to achieve high quality results.
#2 Time is your best friend
I’ve been designing and creating for over 10 years in almost any capacity you might imagine (architect, graphic designer, photographer, letterer, writer, creative director) and if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s this one:
You simply cannot substitute the importance of time in the creation process.
Any idea (literally ANY idea), no matter how good it is, needs time to be perfected.
Personally, I need a minimum of 2-3 days if I’m in a hurry or weeks/months if it’s a bigger project in order to reach an MVP.
As a creator, you will need that time to distantiate yourself mentally from the initial idea and come back at it from a new angle.
You’ll be able to add an extra layer and extra dimension to your original thought and achieve significant improvements.
#3 Allow yourself to make mistakes
Nobody likes to admit to making a mistake.
It is impossible to avoid them though.
So whenever you feel like your creation is too similar to something you have seen before, ask yourself: why did that happen?
Oh, and scrape that sucker.
Again, take a little bit of time to answer WHY.
Maybe you’re a big fan, maybe it got stuck in your subconscious or maybe, maybe you just gravitate to it because it has something you want your own creation to have too.
Whatever your WHY is, identify it and face it head on.
That’s the only sure-fire way of ridding yourself of direct external influences and allowing yourself to create your own stuff.
The New Approach: Learn, Don’t Copy
This piece of advice is tightly related to the “be inspired but don’t copy” idea, but comes at it from the opposite direction.
What if, instead of dwelling on the concept of inspiration, we looked at it from a learning perspective?
This approach proposes that, instead of seeing other creatives’ work with an envious eye, we chose to learn from it.
You can learn a new concept from almost any image you see online if you choose to look beyond just the appreciation lens.
Next time you see an appealing image, dissect it: what can you LEARN from it?
Whether it’s an effective way to convey a mood or a fresh colour combination, make a mental note and move along.
Want to know the best part?
This will, in time, grow your creative capabilities, but will not store the finished result in the back of your head.
How do YOU approach the creative process? Has anything like blatant copying happened to you and what did you do about it?
Spill all the beans below!
If your words can help other creatives, please share and add value to the conversation – we will grow if we learn from each other!
Talk to you soon.