Do We Overestimate Our Originality?

Are you overestimating your originality?

We all like to think we’re original. We all like to create new ideas, share them with the world, and bask in their originality and awesomeness.

But what happens when someone else has the EXACT same idea?

Just because someone has the same idea doesn’t mean they copied you

If I’m being honest, this situation REALLY grinds my gears:

A blogger comes up with an idea. It’s a cool idea, but it’s not super original. By that I mean, I can easily imagine someone else having the same idea even if they’ve never seen this person’s blog. But when another person posts the same idea on their blog, this blogger gets SUPER pissed off and calls them a “copycat” (maybe not to their face, maybe they just rant about this anonymous person who copied them).

But I’ve always felt like I could NEVER tell the blogger that the person probably didn’t copy them directly, but came up with it all on their own. It’s clear from what they say that they’re not looking for an opposing viewpoint, they’re just looking for supporters to rally behind that. And I get that, I do.

I’ve had people copy my work and it SUCKS. I want an army of friends behind me supporting me. But I think that sometimes we need to accept that other people can sometimes have the same idea as us WITHOUT copying.

Sometimes we’re TOO sensitive

If I create a new series called “Blogging 101” is that an original name? Not really, because it’s super common to have {something} 101.

Cooking 101
Design 101
Coding 101
Photography 101

They’re all over the place! So if someone else creates a series that’s also called “Blogging 101”, I’m not going to think they copied my idea, because it’s entirely possible (and likely) that they’d come up with the same name on their own.

I think that sometimes we need to take a step back and realize that:

  • Maybe our idea isn’t as original as we thought.
  • Maybe someone had the same idea all on their own.
  • Maybe we’re overreacting.

Of course, if my blogging feature was called “Snorkles and Butterflies to Guide You Through Blogging” then I think it’s significantly less likely that someone else would have the same idea. Because what the fuck kind of a name is that?

Unless you have a trademark, it isn’t exclusively YOURS

If we’re talking about a design or an entire blog post or a piece of code, then this doesn’t apply. When you create those works, you own the copyright and can thus take action against anyone who copies your work.

But let’s talk about names—brand names, blog names, product names, tag lines, and catch phrases. These fall under trademark territory. So unless you trademark your blog name or the name of your feature/series, there’s nothing stopping someone from using the same name. You can’t demand that they remove it because you had it first.

If there’s something you really want to protect, then you need to trademark it. That will save you from both intentional and unintentional infringement. That’s when you can actually send someone a cease and desist letter if they use the same name as you (and are also in the industries your trademark is valid for).

Have you ever come across a situation where someone was upset that their name had been “copied”, but you felt like the name wasn’t exactly original to begin with?

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I'm a 30-something California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). My three great passions are: books, coding, and fitness. more »

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  1. Yes! I see this fairly often on Twitter where some bloggers will say other bloggers copied names, posts, feature ideas, and so forth! Like is a blogger supposed to spend their precious time checking to see if someone else already did something similar? Some books wouldn’t be around if people didn’t write or do similar things, anyway. That’s why I’m afraid of writing discussion posts or doing a feature because of a possible copycat label.

    1. Yeah there are even tons of books with the same title, but it’s not a big deal. Like, just randomly I searched for “Awaken” on Goodreads and there are tons of books called:

      Awaken Me
      {something} Awakened

      Tons of each of those! They didn’t all copy each other.

  2. I was in a situation once where I filled out a form to be published on someone else’s blog — you know those types of features — and the person was really kind of po’d at me about talking about a feature I hadn’t yet started. It was something I found personally interesting, and the other blogger (over email) started essentially telling me I couldn’t do it because they had a feature that had a similar vibe. I was so annoyed. You don’t own the rights to an idea, unless you go out there and patent it. And even then, my idea wasn’t even exactly the same – it just contained a similar element. I took it out of the post draft, but was still annoyed. I ended up not doing the feature because 1) laziness kicked in and 2) I didn’t want to hear about it down the line. The whole thing felt very underhanded.

    Anne @ Lovely Literature recently posted: Review: The Shattered Court
    1. Gosh that’s horrible! It’s like me trying to ban all other bloggers from posting blogging tips X_X That would be nuts, wouldn’t it?

  3. I was accused by a blogger of ripping of their name for something. It was ironic because I had actually been inspired by a very popular TV show that even if you haven’t watched it, I’m fairly certain you’ve heard of it. Aka they probably got the idea from there too. 😛

    But I’ve also had someone who indeed subscribes to and reads my blog, announce a challenge almost identical to mine a mere week after I announced mine. That felt like a slight, but I let it go. Yeah I was bummed, especially when theirs was much more successful, but I’m kind of happy that they thought it was a good enough idea to use. That tells me that my idea was good but my implementation needs work, which is useful info for me moving forward.

    Brittany recently posted: Review: Overruled by Emma Chase
    1. Oh geeze.. it’s hilarious when someone gets an idea from something popular, then accuses anyone who also gets that idea X_X WHERE IS THE LOGIC?!?!

  4. My indie feature was completely original to me back in…2012 I think. I thought it up while on a beach vacation, of all things and I was really excited to implement it. So I did research. And then I found out that someone was already doing it as a meme (back then, I was going to feature simple author spotlights).
    I changed things up a little (excerpts only) and decided to post them on a different day, but I DID send an email to the bloggers who had started their meme to ask their permission. I know I wasn’t required to do it, because after all, it was actually different, but just to cover my bases, you know?

    Back when I started blogging, I had wanted to re-brand. I think I had been blogging for six months at the time, and I came up with an AWESOME blog name. But when I looked it up, it was also a book-blogging meme, and back then, I was too worried about pissing someone off to do it. Looking that name up now, some huge company is squatting on it, last I checked.

    Is this post born out of any particular event that’s transpired?

    Jennifer @ BookShelfery recently posted: Audiobook Review: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
    1. It’s very nice of you to have so much respect for other peoples’ ideas. Like it’s very clear to me that you came up with these ideas on your own—you didn’t copy them. But then you still changed them up a bit when you saw other people had the same ideas.

      There haven’t been any events super recently that I’ve heard of, but I have come across two (one of which was pretty widely “publicized”) that made me feel this way. I don’t really want to put the spotlight on anyone though.

  5. I definitely don’t over estimate myself as far as ideas go. I’ve been encouraged to write grants for funding class projects and it has to be an original proposal. My attitude is “Plenty of teachers are having their students create multimedia book reports (in 1999)” so it’s not original. But grant foundations just want it to be original to the recipient in most cases.
    I think some people just like to turn everything into a drama or a reality TV show. Your Blogging 101 comparison is spot on.

    Elizabeth recently posted: The Canterbury Sisters
    1. That’s an awesome comparison. Another great one is book haul type posts. There are so many different ones:

      Stacking the Shelves
      In My Mailbox
      Book Haul
      Bought and Bagged (or something)
      Books I’ve Shelved
      New to My Shelf

      There’s nothing wrong with trying to put a different name on it, but it’s just a similar idea. They’re different names just masking the same thing. The underlying idea is still exactly the same.

  6. Trade marking is something professional though, and that’s something that might be more right up your alley, but I think most of the book blogging world wouldn’t consider trade marking.

    But I do think you’re right. I saw a blogger complain that another person stole their idea, but when I found out what idea it was, I thought that it was a very simple idea that didn’t really merit complete ownership of. It’s easier to point the finger when it’s a name, but when it comes to the idea for a feature, it’s harder to do so.

    Shannelle recently posted: The Summer Story of May 10, 2015
    1. Trademarking is definitely for a more professional environment/business, but you don’t HAVE to be a professional to submit a trademark. It does cost a big chunk of money though, which sucks.

      I guess my point is that we don’t have a legal right to names unless we go through that extra step. That’s in contrast to copyright, which is automatic.

    1. Ahaha, sorry about that example! I’m sure your series is going to be great. 🙂

  7. Do we overestimate our originality? In a word: yes. We talked about this topic SO many times in the Writing Arts department. And particularly in today’s globally connected world where so many of us are exposed to similar stimuli and ideas and creative stimulants, it’s significantly more unlikely that two (or more) people wouldn’t have the same idea. It still feels like a popped balloon when you see someone else with the same idea; but at least it means someone else thought it was good enough to use, too. 🙂

  8. I think people absolutely overestimate their creativity. If you’re getting annoyed that someone “stole”, you’re probably overreacting. There is no new idea in the world, really, and most things people come up with for their blogs are not original. Just because someone is posting something that is similar to what you’re posting doesn’t mean that they stole it from you. You both came up with a similar idea because you’re both book lovers with a blog and you can only do so many things with a blog. I have no fantasy that my features on my blog are original to me. People should not be offended by similar concepts on other blogs. Just live and let live!

  9. Actually, I see this all the time. It’s not like we all sit around and think up ways to “copy” other people. We are all smart, unique individuals that SOMETIMES have the same idea!

    Honestly, I have thought of MANY things to do on my blog, but didn’t because i didn’t want to suffer the backlash that would ensue, ya know? And that sucks. lol

  10. I completely agree, no concept is really original now days, I mean I have definitely overestimated my originality when it comes to posts and of course photography but at the end of the day I just carry on with life because drama really isn’t needed. I remember when me and Josephine from Word Revel actually posted pretty much the same post about how to photograph on a white background within hours of each other and instead of accusing one another we encouraged each other and we’ve become such great friends.

    Georgie @ What Georgie Did recently posted: K.A. TUCKER: SURVIVING ICE | COVER REVEAL
  11. Yes! Amen to this post. Over the past three years I’ve seen a few people throw a hissy fit because they felt they have been copied, when they haven’t. I get so fed up when people are just looking for drama.

    There have been a few posts I’ve seen that have been fairly original, or at least not something I’ve ever seen before. Sometimes I’ll leave a comment saying l’d like to do my own version of that and double check that the writer won’t get annoyed about it, and I will always link to the post that inspired me.

    Rosie recently posted: A beautiful view with friends
  12. I totally agree with this! There are so many people out there on the internet trying to do their thing, whether it’s book blogging or otherwise, that there is bound to be duplication! For example, I have a few book cover-related features on my blog and I’ve seen countless other blogs share book covers they love. A title about judging books by their covers or “cover love” has been done so many times before; it’s hard to get mad about it. I agree with what you said in the comments too about stacking the shelves or even weekly recap posts. There are so many “memes” out there that aren’t even memes. Let’s be honest, the amount of things you can discuss about books is fairly limited. Every time I post a discussion I assume there MAY be another one out there on the SAME topic. Why wouldn’t there be?? I’m not a master genius inventor of all bookish discussions and I would never claim to be. If I borrow from an idea, I ask for permission or give credit. So easy.

    Lauren @ Bookmark Lit recently posted: Top Ten Tuesdays #39: Authors to Meet
  13. Well,I’ve never had an experience like this,but then,I’ve only been on the scene for a short time,but still I’ve seen this happen to a lot of bloggers.And I completely agree with you! Often when I come up with an idea-which I think is totally unique,make a draft but soon I find out that someone else had posted something that goes along the same lines recently.What do I do,I come back and delete the draft,because if I post that,I know for sure that I will be criticised for copying especially since I am a newbie.*sighs*
    Wonderful post Ashley!

    Mishma @ Chasing Faerytales recently posted: A new look,some announcements and a giveaway!
    1. It really sucks when you’re stopped from putting forward your own ideas out of feat that you’ll be called a copycat. 🙁 I’m sorry you’ve had to go through that!

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  15. Okay, so newbie blogger story:

    When I first started blogging, I came up with an idea I thought was completely original. I was so excited for it and it became a staple of my previous blog. But basically, there was a lot of drama about plagiarism and um, I saw certain posts calling people about so 4-5 years ago, 13 year old me googled my feature name and found others like it. I was heartbroken and absolutely terrified that someone on the internet was going to say I was stealing from them because we had the same idea. So, I emailed every one of the owners of this similar feature and, I basically said that I never tried copying from them, but I understood that they had the idea first and I thought this meant that I was ‘in trouble’. So, I told them I could link to them because they had it first, and I did that for every feature for a while. It took away from my joy of blogging and it made writing my posts even longer.

    Eventually, I stopped, but I felt like not understanding this (and being insecure about my place in the blogging world, because I was 13) hurt me a lot early in my blogging years. Now, I totally understand this. It’s tough to be original. It’s tough to be proprietary. I think it’s really about the combination of posts, and letting your individual voice shine through. I can’t think of another way to be completely original.

    Sorry for the long comment, and great post!

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience!

      It’s a huge bummer when this kind of fear prevents us from doing what we love or following through with ideas. If you read through some of the comment above, it seems like this is far too common. A lot of people get an idea, then see someone else had the same idea, so they abandon theirs completely out of fear of being called a copycat.

      When real copying happens, it definitely sucks (I’ve had it happen to me!), but I think that makes us overly sensitive and we start seeing copycats where they don’t exist. 🙁

  16. Yes I really think we do! It’s really hard to come up with a completely new and unique name, unless it’s something that is really weird, like Snorkles and Butterflies To Guide You Through Blogging.

    There have been a lot of instances on Twitter where I see someone says they were copied, and I’m like “uh, no. That has been done long before you”. Especially if we’re talking about ideas rather than title/event/feature names.

    Valerie recently posted: ARC Review: The Way I Used To Be

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