4 Tips for Stealing Inspiration Without Stealing Content

I’ve written before that one of my favorite forms of inspiration is the kind I get from other bloggers and articles I read online or in print. My notebook is filled with ideas prompted by things I’ve read online, and I’m sure that yours is too, which is great because that’s exactly why we’re all here and what makes this such a great community: to inspire one another.

Stealing inspiration from other bloggers can get tricky though when you’re not sure how to go about it, or when you don’t give credit where credit is due, and a lot of times, that uncertainty leaves us not wanting to hit the publish button on what might be a really great post. So today, here are my four tips to keep in mind when stealing inspiration from your favorite bloggers or articles.

stealing inspiration
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Ask Yourself Why

Why do you like this post – specifically, what about it? Is it the writing, the subject matter, the photos, the way they approach the topic? What specifically is inspiring you to write your own post and, if you were to comment, what part of the post would you respond to?

Once you know what it is that you like about the post or article you’re reading, you can start to narrow down what it is that you want to write about – and it may not be what this person wrote about at all. You may find that what you really like and were inspired by is their openness in discussing a certain topic, or that you think their photos are absolutely stunning. Whatever it is, figure it out and move from there.

Expand on That

Now that you know what it is you like about the post or article you’re stealing inspiration from, figure out what else you can say that the author hasn’t already said. How can you expand on their ideas in a way that they haven’t, and that you find interesting?

This step is so important because, once you know what you like about a post, it can be easy (and tempting) to just write about that exact same thing. Even if you’re saying it in your own words though, using someone else’s exact idea without making it your own is theft. It isn’t doing you or your blog any favors and would probably upset the original author if they ever saw it.

Don’t Steal

I keep saying that this is a post on stealing inspiration, but what I mean is that you should be using blogs, videos, books, and articles that you love as inspiration for your own ideas, not that you should actually steal.

That said, if you find that what you want to say would be really helped by a direct quote or a photo from the post that inspired you, ask permission first. Especially with bloggers, it’s crazy easy to shoot someone an email explaining how much you loved their post, and what your own idea is. Chances are, that author spent a lot of time writing their post or article and would be really upset if they saw their own words typed up elsewhere – even if you did give them credit. Beyond that though, having large portions of an article published in various places kills SEO because Google interprets it as plagiarism, and nobody wants that.

Give Credit

Finally – and most importantly – give credit where credit is due. If you got a great idea because of a post you really loved, then let your readers know that’s where you got the idea. Link back to the post that you’re stealing inspiration from so that if they want t0 (and they probably will once they see how great your post is), they can head on over and check out what that blogger had to say.

It may not make sense to start off your post with something like “this post idea came from so-and-so,” but it can be super easy to add something in like “after reading so-and-so’s post, I started thinking…” And most importantly, don’t just say you got the idea from someone and give their name or blog name – link back so that readers can share the love.

So what about you? What are your must-follow rules for stealing inspiration from favorite bloggers or articles? Let me know in the comments!

  • Shybiker

    Good advice. When I started blogging, I found inspiration in other blogs and learned, as you teach, that being honest about that is good — and sharing attention with others is mutually-beneficial. Also, I like your suggestion to “expand” on the subject: that transforms the work into something yours.

    • Shybiker

      Do you mind if I add a thought? I’ve noticed many young bloggers believe that they have to know answers about everything they post and act like experts on the subjects. I understand that impulse but it really isn’t necessary. Fellow-bloggers read for what we have to say, not for the last word on a subject. Plus, acting like an expert when we aren’t one isn’t attractive; it sends the opposite message.

      • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

        I’m sorry….I didnt realize I was coming off as trying to have the answer to everything. I don’t at all know everything – and I’ve written that before. I just know what I’ve learned over several years and I enjoy sharing that. Im sorry if it came off as my trying to be a know it all or something.

        • Cat

          I don’t think he was trying to say you were, Kiersten! I think he was genuinely trying to add a point to your own thoughts about inspiration. He wasn’t accusing you of pretending to be an expert at all, at least that’s now how I read his comment :)

          • Shybiker

            Thank you, Cat. You’re right about my intent.

        • Shybiker

          Kiersten, I apologize for being unclear. I wasn’t accusing you of doing this and, in fact, wasn’t even thinking of you when I wrote it. As Cat interpreted my comment, I was trying to “expand” the conversation and make another point in the same direction as your post. I’m sorry for the confusion.

          • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

            Ooo I’m sorry! I guess that’s what I get for trying to read and respond to comments on the bus, in my half-asleep daze. I completely misunderstood.

  • http://www.socalledhomemaker.com/ socalledhomemaker

    GREAT advice! I love this. You are awesome. I am definitely pinning this…it’s something all bloggers should know.

  • Mary Martin Doukakis

    I agree with all that you said. I thought of my research papers at college. If you quote, you have to give credit; cite your work.
    Thanks for such a great post!

  • http://olyvia.co/ Erika Madden

    Thank you for touching on this. I’ve known quite a few people who have been upset because they discovered their blog posts were essentially being copied by other people in their niche. It’s definitely not always out of evil intention…but sometimes it is.

    I’ve always appreciated when people ask if they can quote a post I’ve written on their own blog (with a link and proper credit of course). :)

  • http://www.seriouslysarah.net/ Sarah @ Seriously, Sarah?

    This is such an important topic! I always, always, link back to anyone who inspired something. Even if it’s from a conversation that I had with another blogger–I ask them if they want to be credited (sometimes they don’t).
    And, since I’ve been working on my responsible blogging series, if I am using direct quotes or think that someone’s image will add to my examples of “good” posts, I emailed them. They were more than happy to let me use their graphics and even wanted to help promote it. It was a great way to connect with other bloggers.
    My newest beef is with Paper.li. I get so annoyed with all of those tweets, but I never looked and realized that they were essentially representing my blog, post, graphic, and picture as part of their publication, even though they were aggregating it from Twitter. Most of the time, I didn’t like their other content, so I didn’t want to be associated, plus when I would contact them about it, they had no appreciation for what basically (legally) stealing my content felt like because they never created anything original.
    I figured out how to opt out and have paper.li block my website from being linked, but it was an hour of googling!
    (Oh, when I contacted on person about it–before I understood the concept, she called me a nutter, told me to write posts about not being an ass, etc. But she didn’t provide any contact info other than her Twitter account!)