Have you ever had an idea, dwelled too much upon it and got excited about starting it, only to find that someone already beat you it? It could be anything… a book idea, a paper or even a blog post. It feels like all the good ones are always taken, and you worry that if you try to recycle the idea and adapt it in your own way, you may get called out and criticized by your peers. Worse, you can be accused of plagiarism, and we definitely don’t want that. Once a plagiarist, always a plagiarist… or something like that?
While it’s true that the idea pool is running out of fresh stuff, there’s nothing wrong with taking some things that have been previously used and adapting them to suit your own story. For example, the creator of Pinocchio was probably the first to create talking puppets, but yet he doesn’t own any copyrights to that idea, meaning that everyone is free to use talking puppets as they please. He may have used the idea first, but it can still be recycled.
I have a novel in the works that involves people stepping inside the pages of books, and I only realised a little too late that that’s a central theme in Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. I froze. With nearly 60,000 thousands words written, I didn’t have the heart to just scrap down the entire thing! So I stopped writing. I tried to think up of ways to fix this, and ultimately I decided that my story and Inkheart were only similar in terms of their theme, but everything else was quite different! I haven’t finished that book yet, but I will make sure it’s so damn good people wouldn’t even think of Inkheart when reading it.
Blog ideas can be quite similar, and if you spend your time agonizing over who used this or that idea, you won’t ever blog! People have been blogging for quite some time now, and any idea will have probably been used one way or another by some blogger. They might’ve used it today, or yesterday, or even a year ago. Somewhere out there somebody might be writing a blog post very similar to the present one right now.
My point is: one shouldn’t be afraid to use an idea just because someone tried their hand at it before. You never know, you might end up fashioning it in a way that is much better than all else. And besides, even if the idea is similar, the writing style will undoubtedly differ. One writer can present something in a somber manner, while another might make it quite funny!
Do you worry about copying people? Or do you just try to write whatever comes to mind?