It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

But is it really?

I’m often asked by writers hoping to get published, and other creative folks, just how they can protect their work and ideas once it’s out in the marketplace, especially online. In short, they worry about others stealing their ideas, and are then understandably reluctant to share them.

I’ve had some concerns (justified) with my own work, which appears all over the place, making it especially hard to track pirating.

My answer to their complex question is simple: Copyright or not, it can be tough to protect your work completely. The challenge we each face is to become inspired while enjoying the work of others, then use that inspiration to fuel create our own unique work, not reproduce (or plagiarize) what we’ve seen. At the very least, people should credit the source.

Still, putting our heartfelt babies out there to share, inspire, inform, educate, make people laugh and love, and so much more is well worth the risk. Like many other creative beings, it’s a risk I take every single time I share my words, photography and design, including on this blog. I challenge those who enjoy other’s work to come up with new inspiration all their own, not reproduce the same creative vision, however revised.

Imitation may be flattering, but is can also prove a disservice to our own ideas and creativity, not to mention that it’s unfair, even wrong (and even illegal) to take credit for someone else’s ideas. It’s also incredibly frustrating to the original artist. True creative talents don’t need to resort to behavior that begs, borrows or steals the ideas of others.

The challenge all artists face is to dig deep to uncover their own creative voices before they risk sharing their work. Most good folks do honor and respect the work of others, and honor copyright. But in today’s online world, we will probably never be completely risk free once our work is released into the universe.

Still, I vote to share that work rather than allow fears of imitation to silence creative voices that must be heard.

Now go express yours, in your own unique way.
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