DEAR COPYCRAFTERS…WE NEED TO TALK

dear copycrafers

Lately I’ve been noticing a lot of shenanigans in my Instagram feed…not just of {what I feel} are copies of my own work, but of other makers as well. It is hurtful, and it is sad. I know I’m not the only one either, because there is a lot of backroom banter going on about the issue.

And may I be honest with you?

It. Is. Boring.

Allow me to preface the rest of this post by saying that it is one thing to be inspired by another’s work or techniques. It is something completely different to outright copy from someone. There, I’ve said it.

Now that we’ve all acknowledged the elephant in the room, I have to say that it’s all very boring. I mean, can you imagine flipping through your favorite fashion magazine and seeing ads for different designers – except that all the models look exactly the same and are wearing identical outfits? Boring. If you’re not in to fashion, how about a magazine filled with page after page of the same delicious recipe? Boring. Doesn’t sound very appealing anymore, now does it?

Not only is it boring to look at the same thing, it is upsetting to be copied. It’s also upsetting for me to see you copy off of other people.

So at this point, I might be coming across to you as holier-than-thou, snooty and passive aggressive. Allow me to say that if this is your perception, this has way more to do with how you view yourself than how you view me. You also might be thinking that I am going to play the “shame game,” call you out, and let the entire interwebs know that you’re a copycrafter.

There is a lot of advice out there about how to handle these types of situations; take the high road, be “flattered” that someone admires your work and not acknowledge it at all. Or, take the low road and call out the person.

I’m not going to do either of those things. Instead, I’m going to take the middle road, if you will. I’m going to tell you that I understand.

Scratching your head yet? Read on…

Years ago, pre-Insta and Facebook, I used to religiously purchase magazines from the craft store and pour over them with the best of intentions. I was going to be inspired to create.

However, instead of creating, I did a lot of comparing…like, a LOT of comparing. So much comparing, that it literally sucked the creative force right out of my body. I felt absolutely paralyzed in my abilities and would second-guess every idea that I had because clearly those abilities and ideas paled in comparison to the images on those beautiful, glossy pages.

So, I tried to do what they did. And I failed. Miserably…and it gave me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

As a casual, outside observer, you may have seen what I had produced {not created, ahem} and perhaps you even found it beautiful. You might even comment “how creative” I was. But I knew I wasn’t. It didn’t matter that I had created it for myself with no intentions whatsoever to attempt to sell it, I hadn’t created a damn thing and in addition to that, I could point out every single flaw in the piece.

It would never be as good as the original…because well, it wasn’t the original.

You see, there is something innately magical about giving birth to an idea and eventually to the end product. There is something positively intoxicating about all of these ideas, floating around in your brain and watching them come to life. And believe it or not, all of this dreaming and creating is really hard work…and that’s before you even get to the point of fabrication.

Allow me to put it this way: Stealing another artist’s ideas and designs is no different than stealing answers off of a student’s paper for a test. That student studied really hard in order to do well, and the lazy kid next to him copied all of the answers and ended up with a good grade. Except he didn’t work for it. Would you ever tell your child it is ok to cheat and steal answers from another student? Good gravy, please say no.

That leaves us with the question: Why do people copy?

I certainly can’t speak for everyone and if I thought y’all were interested I would give you my amateur Jungian analysis of the situation, but I can only speak for myself and my past frame of mind. Please let me preface this next bit by saying that mutual discovery is scientifically proven, so there is a chance that you and another maker have had the same thought about design and perhaps even produced similar work at the very same time without having knowledge of the other’s current work. Elizabeth Gilbert even wrote about this phenomenon in her book, “Big Magic,” in a fascinating way.

For the sake of argument, however, let’s assume that this isn’t a mutual discovery sort of situation. Let’s just say you are out and out getting ripped off by someone…why do they do it?

Bottom line? Lack of self esteem.

When they say that “comparison is the thief of joy,” they weren’t lying. When people spend an extensive amount of time looking at, and consequently comparing their work to other artists and makers, they have no time to cultivate creative thoughts of their own. And hence begins the never ending hamster wheel in to the pit of despair and what I will call “I-suckiness.” You keep running and spending that energy expecting to get somewhere, but you’re stuck in the very same place. Because try as you might, you will never be able to produce your own magic by trying to sponge off of someone else’s. It is, as they say, an effort in futility.

With that said, if you are someone who is constantly comparing yourself or your work to others, I am going to make a polite suggestion – and please know that this comes from a place of love, because this has everything to do with you and nothing to do with the people you are copying from, aside from the fact that you obviously dig their work.

Unplug. Stop stalking other people’s feeds for ideas. Put down the magazines and stop trolling Pinterest.

Next, think about what inspires you… what makes your crank turn and gets you going? Learn more about that. Take some classes and improve your skill set. Keep a journal or a sketchbook {or both} and redirect all of your energy from comparing to creating. Inspire yourself.

When you get to a point where you are able to appreciate the beauty and creativity of someone else’s work without comparing it to your own, then it’s safe to start looking at it again. But if you are still feeling that familiar twinge of insecurity and perhaps a wee bit of jealousy, repeat the steps from unplug forward.

Because, honestly…you’re better than this.

You didn’t get in to this business because you wanted to copy from other people. You feel a need, a pull, a desire or a calling to create. Maybe you feel like you’ve “lost” your creativity. Pish-posh, sister. Go reclaim your magic. YOUR magic. Do you really think that the universe is going to reward you with creativity for swiping other people’s ideas? Sorry, Charlie…it does not work that way.

Maybe I’m all wrong here. Maybe you legitimately don’t care that you’re copying off of someone. Maybe you feel like because it’s on the internet it’s fair game. Or maybe you got in to this business to make a boat load of money. I hate to break it to you, but being an artist is not a get-rich-quick-scheme, so that idea’s out as well.

Look, you may not find my work engaging, inspiring or creative. To be honest, that doesn’t matter to me. I find my work engaging, inspiring and creative. I feel it in my bones, and I assure you it’s a much better feeling than the icky pit-of-your-stomach nausea related to hijacking someone else’s ideas. It took me a long time to get to this space in my head, and I truly wish it for everyone.

You have magic in you just waiting to come out, but you have to be brave enough to pursue it. That magic is not going to happen by riding on the coattails of others. It’s going to come by jumping off of that hamster wheel and reclaiming your authenticity.

So please be brave and jump.

Because we want you to share your magic with us.

Peace, love and blessings to all…

April