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
Unsplash

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!

Why To Get Inspired

Since I started this series on finding inspiration I’ve written a lot about inspiration: what it is, where to find it, and how to force it have been three of my favorite posts on the subject.  But what I haven’t told you yet is why to get inspired.  If you’re a writer, an artist, a DIY expert, or even a blogger yourself, this can seem pretty obvious.  But what if you’re a financial analyst or a lawyer? Does finding what inspires you still matter? In my opinion, absolutely.

why get inspired

To Enjoy Your Work

No matter what you do for a living, whether it’s drafting reports for someone else to present, or designing an entire house from start to finish, inspiration is so important to you enjoying what you’re doing.  At some point along the way, you were inspired to go into a certain field.  Something made you want that job, even if it’s not the job you’d always wanted for yourself.  And in fact, especially if this isn’t the job you’ve always wanted.

We’re all going to have horrible jobs and terrible bosses at some point. You’re going to wake up some mornings and realize that the last thing you want to do is drag yourself back into the office for another eight hours at a job you may not enjoy.  Finding inspiration in your life and in your job can make those eight hours a lot less awful and in fact, more meaningful.

To Push Yourself

Life, and so much about it, is hard. Every step of the way could leave you wondering why even bother, and there are going to be days when you’re not sure you can understand why.  So much about life, whether it’s going back to school, crossing that next item off your bucket list, or travelling to a country you’ve always wanted to see, means pushing ourselves to limits we didn’t know we had.

Without inspiration, there’s be no way we’d do half the things we do every day. Even the smallest things, like an interview at a job you want more than anything or  first date with someone you’ve liked for a long time, require us to get inspired.

To Live

Whether it’s in the office, in the home, or in the mountains a thousand miles from home, inspiration is what keeps us going every day.  Inspiration is what drives you to run that 10K, or to host that party you’re terrified won’t go the way you’d planned.  We need inspiration in our lives to force us to live, to get out of bed in the mornings and do something worth remembering.

Inspiration, I think, is a key piece of motivation. It’s what encourages us to get motivated in the first place, and the thing that tells us what to get motivated about.

So what about you? What are your reasons for getting inspired?

Finding Inspiration: On Forcing Creativity

In the last post I wrote about Finding Inspiration, I suggested forcing it when you just can’t seem to find inspiration anywhere you look.  It’s controversial advice, and you’ll probably find more bloggers saying the exact opposite than you’ll find people agreeing with me.  But I know from experience that if I never forced it, there are a whole lot of essays, short stories, and blog posts that never would have been written.  In fact, my absolute favorite piece that I’ve ever written – a creative non-fiction essay I wrote in my last semester of college – was the result of a professor who not only encouraged, but required us to force ourselves to write every week.  At the start of the semester when she stood in front of the room and told us that we’d be writing 5 to 10 new pages each week, a few kids immediately dropped out.  And the rest of us really took stock of our lives and our previously forgotten about ideas.  By the end of the semester though, I was so glad she’d done it because I had a 15 page essay that I’d never have written otherwise.

I know that forcing yourself to be creative seems counterintuitive though, and at times, downright impossible.  So today, I have a few tips on forcing it when you can’t seem to get inspired.

forcing creativity

Use Old Ideas

Remember all those old post-it notes, word documents, and blog post drafts that you’ve got lying around with half-imagined ideas you forgot about almost immediately after you wrote them down? Well, go dig them out and see if you can find a new way of working with them that just clicks.  Pull a couple of them together, or imagine them in a way you didn’t when you first wrote them down.  Even if you don’t like what you come up with in the end, what’s the hurt?  You weren’t doing anything with that idea anyway, so what’s the loss of a bad turnout?

Just Write

I am the absolute worst at taking this advice, because I just feel so ridiculous sitting down and writing “I don’t know what to write because I have no ideas that seem to be working and there’s nothing to say…..” until something hits me.  But it’s advice that any writing teacher worth their meager paycheck stands by, and that’s because eventually, it works.  Even if what you write is total crap and none of it makes sense, it forced you to exercise that part of your brain.  It forced you to write, and that turns gears that weren’t going anywhere when you weren’t writing.

Work on an Old Piece

Do you have a poem that you absolutely love except for that one line?  Or a blog post that just doesn’t seem to be finished yet?  Pull it out, and work on it.  Working with something familiar, with words and ideas you’ve already seen and thought about plenty of times before will get you into the mood to create.  You might end up with a whole new idea that you want to work on separately, or with the perfect ending for that essay you’ve been working on for months.  And if not?  At least it got you thinking!

Keep a Journal

I’m the last person to say I have a creative journal; I absolutely do not in any sense of the word.  When push comes to shove, my journal is more of a middle-schoolers diary, with some actual real thoughts and makeshift budgets thrown in for good measure. It’s something I’ve been working on every day though, because even if what I’m writing isn’t anything strictly creative, it’s working that part of my brain.  Even if it’s just a couple paragraphs about what you did that day, sitting down and writing at the end of the night forces you to work that part of your brain that your creativity comes from.

Kenzie is my absolute go-to when it comes to journaling, so if it’s something you’ve never done head on over there ASAP and get some tips to get you started.

What do you think of these ideas, and about forcing creativity? Do you force it when you can’t find inspiration, or do you just wait for inspiration to strike naturally?

Where to Find Inspiration

find inspiration

It’s been a couple of weeks, but I’m finally making it to part three of my new series, Finding Inspiration.  If you’ve missed parts one and two, you can check them out here; but Finding Inspiration is a series about what inspiration is, how it influences us as writers and creators, and where we can find inspiration.

Today, I want to focus on that last part, especially since as bloggers, inspiration often seems far more fleeting than we would like.  I can’t even tell you how many hours I’ve spent staring at a blank screen or notebook, wondering “what’s even left to write about?”  It’s a problem we all face, but as creatives we see it more than most: a complete lack of inspiration.  While it is different for everyone, this spark that makes us all keep going can be found in certain places, and in certain ways.

Change of Scenery

I’ve written before about my writing process, and how I usually tend to write my blog posts in the same few places: bed, desk, living room couch.  Eventually, after hours of using a certain space to spark my creativity and encourage my writing, I can’t find anything creative about the space anymore.  It happens to all of us, because we tend to stick to what works.  If a certain space or habit has lead to work we’re proud of, we’re probably going to do it again.  Eventually though, that space loses what made it work.

After having spent a few nights working in the art studio with my roommate, I’ve found that some great ideas – ones I never would have had while sitting in my room – come to me while there.  And the same holds true for sitting on the bus, spending the weekend up the mountains with family, or anything else that varies from where I usually put myself to draw creative energy.

The Internet

Let’s face it: the Internet is filled with a trillion different things.  Probably more than that.  And all of that can serve as a place of inspiration for you.  A beautiful spoken word piece, or an article that really makes you angry; a gorgeous photo, or a status update your “friend” who you haven’t seen since high-school shared on Facebook…. it can all be a place of inspiration if you look at it the right way.

Force It

Now here’s the advice you’re absolutely never going to hear anywhere else, but when your creative juices are completely tapped and nothing’s coming out the other end of your pen, forcing yourself to write anything can help.

I’ve got notebooks filled with terrible poetry, and even more pages that I’ve thrown away over the years because I didn’t like what I’d written.  But the thing about all those crappy poems, and ripped out journal pages is that they lead to something I didn’t crumple up or scribble out.  Instead, as bad as those pieces were, they lead to something better, to ideas that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Solitude

Some of us are social creatures more so than others are, but we still all need time away.  Especially in a generation so easily connected, it can be difficult to fathom putting our cell phones on silent or leaving them at home.  But taking a long walk by yourself, going for a run, or reading a book by yourself can be so much more inspiring than anyone would think on a Monday.

Walk Away

Sometimes, it’s just not going to come to you.  Staring at a screen willing the right words to come will only make you more frustrated, and probably less capable of inspiring yourself.  Sometimes, just a half hour away from whatever you’re working on can.

So what about you? When you’re creatively tapped, where do you find things to do.

Finding Inspiration: What Inspires Me

A couple of weeks ago, I introduced a new series called Finding Inspiration.  I wanted to explore and hopefully find an answer to the question of “what is inspiration,” and today, I’m finally able to get started with just that.  

Inspiration is a word we all hear regularly, especially in a field as creativity-driven as blogging.  But when asked to define it, we often struggle to pinpoint exactly what inspiration is.  


Almost like “love” or “happiness,” inspiration is a word that is more of a feeling, and less of a tangible something.  It can’t be defined in any one way, because it’s different for everyone who experiences it.  But that doesn’t stop us from wanting to better understand that elusive word; so today, I’m going to kick off this series by talking about what inspires me.  

What Inspires Me


Silence

From the time I was young, I can remember loving solitude – whether that meant lying alone in my room reading a good book, playing with my cat, or going on long walks by myself.  

At night, I would lie alone in my bed writing entire novels in my mind, books that never seemed to end but always left me with a hundred new words to write down in the morning.  I would go on long walks by myself, at a trail near my home that only one friend of mine ever knew about.  I’d spend hours sitting on a bridge above the Schuylkill River, dreaming of the one-days and the what-ifs, and somehow, this alone-time always left me feeling more refreshed and ready to create than being around friends and family ever did.  

Spring Rain

I don’t know what it is specifically about the rain, and I suppose I could say that spring in general is an incredibly inspiring time (and so is fall – the leeway between two polarized moments).  

But somehow, it’s the rain that always gets me – that scent of it in the early morning hours on a Saturday in April, when it’s only just started to warm up outside and you can smell the new season coming out of the suddenly green grass.  The smell of life just beginning all around me, as cliche as that sounds, seems to get me every time.

Someone Else’s Writing

Whether it’s a spoken word piece that makes me feel strongly about a topic, or a short-story that leaves me unable to stop thinking, incredible writing makes me want to create something just as powerful.  

A Good Debate or a Strong Opinion

It’s no secret that I love to argue, particularly about controversial news stories, and the ideals I hold close to my heart.  I’ve always loved fighting for my beliefs, no matter what anybody around me seems to think.  Somehow that debate, that fundamental disagreement that leaves me having to pull from my morals, my politics, and my education leaves me wanting more.  More education, more inspiration, more to read and say on the topic I find myself having such a strong opinion on.  
 
It never fails that after a good debate – whether in person, on paper, or online – I feel riled up.  It wakes me up in a way that only a couple of other things in my life do, and I’m left wanting to contribute more to the conversation.  
So now it’s your turn – what inspires you?  What leaves you feeling “turned on” at the end of the day, and ready to create something more?

Finding Inspiration: A Series

Yesterday, I posed the question on Twitter: “what is inspiration and what inspires you?”  I was confused when I didn’t receive very many responses, because it seemed like a good question to me, and one that a lot of bloggers would want to weigh in on.  But as I laid (yes, I did have to look up the proper form of that word) in bed searching “blog ideas” on Pinterest, I realized that as good as the question may be, the answers probably wouldn’t fit into 140 characters.

Inspiration is a huge, all-encompassing word that doesn’t fit into the four syllables it holds.  It’s an idea, like faith or freedom that keeps the world turning and society growing, but that we can’t quite define because it’s so vast and so completely different for everyone.
It did leave me asking myself though: what is inspiration?  If it is such a huge idea, what does it mean to me, and where do I find it?
What is Inspiration
Inspiration is something I’ve never truly nailed down.  It’s an abstract idea that is tailored to every part of speech: to inspire, to be inspirational, to be inspired, to find inspiration… It’s something I know I find every day, the motivation behind my getting out of bed each morning, behind my writing a new post here every day, behind every picture I take and word I write and interview I go to.  It is my life force, and I believe it is yours too.
Even the dictionary – my source for anything I can’t quite get a grasp on – left me wondering more.  Literally, inspiration is our life force, what keeps us going each day and waking each morning.
inspiration |ˌinspəˈrāSHən|

noun

the drawing in of breath; inhalation.

• an act of breathing in; an inhalation.

So how do you define something like that?  The force that keeps all of us growing and changing; how is that something you nail down in 140 characters or less?
If you could, how would you try to define inspiration?  I’m going to be trying over the next couple of months, by breaking it down into manageable pieces.

How College Made Me a Better Person

We’ve all heard before that college is a time of growth for most people.  It’s the first time in our lives when we’re on our own and surrounded by so many people who are completely different from the people we’ve grown up around.  Each day, we’re faced with a hundred decisions we’d never even considered before.  But just because college means change, doesn’t mean that change is the same for everyone, just that you’ll come out a different person than when you went in.
 
Self-Improvement through College

More Open-Minded

Before college, I never knew a wide range of people.  I attended several very small Catholic grade schools, most of which only had one class of about 25 students for each grade, the majority of whom were white, middle-class Republicans.  Even when I reached high-school and my parents let me go to the local public school, I graduated with a class of less than 300 students.  So it wasn’t until college that I started to meet a variety of people with beliefs, education, and backgrounds different than my own.

While I’d like to believe I’ve always been an accepting and relatively open-minded person, I can’t honestly remember what my beliefs were before college, except that they aligned pretty easily with that of my friends and parents.

 

College introduced me to so many new ideas, ways of thinking, people, and cultures. It was an experience that molded who I am and what I believe while introducing me to so many different types of people.

More Self-Aware

For many of the same reasons I became more open-minded and opinionated in college, I also became more aware of who I am as a person.

As a teenager, so much of who you are and what you believe is based on what your friends think, say and do.  You gravitate towards people just like you, and for the most part it’s easy to agree with what most of your friends believe.  For me though, college was more about finding who I am and what I believe.

As a freshman, I walked into my dorm room having no idea what I wanted to major in or where I hope to be four years later.  The major I was absolutely set on declaring on Monday was no longer even a consideration by the weekend, and it took a year and a half as well as a series of classes before I realized what it was that I wanted to be doing.  And even that decision – to become a journalist – had changed by the time I graduated a few months ago.

More Inquisitive

I’ve always loved learning, and the start of a new school year.  For as long as I can remember, writing and reading have been my favorite subjects in school, and I can remember days in high-school where I couldn’t wait to get to those classes.

It wasn’t until college though that my interests expanded.  The electives I was able to fit into my schedule were some of the most rewarding experiences I had in a college classroom setting, and they’ve led me to continue learning, to continue asking questions.
I always say that if I had the money, I’d be a professional student because I graduated a few months ago still wanting to take so many different classes: languages, Holocaust studies, art, photography, philosophy, religious studies… If I had the chance, I don’t know if I’d ever graduate.

So what about you?  How did college change you?

Learning to Embrace Criticism in Blogging and in Life

This post first appeared as a guest post on Meet with a Smile

In the five years that I’ve spent sharing those things online – whether on She is Fierce, on one of the several other blogs I’ve written on, or in articles I’ve written for local newspapers – I’ve dealt with my share of criticism, and that’s what I want to talk to you guys about today.

Embracing Criticism to Grow
here

We’ve all seen it before – the red pen of criticism on our professional work, our decisions, our writing…on any number of things that we let the world see.  As bloggers especially, we’ve opened ourselves up to this criticism in a way that most people don’t.  We post our lives, our thoughts, and our writing almost daily for anyone who wants to read it, and oftentimes, those people aren’t well-meaning.

I recently started a new job – my first “career” job – as a Legal Assistant at a local law firm.  One of the first things I realized (as in, by my third day there) was that my writing was, for the first time I could remember, simply not good enough.  The years I’d spent perfecting my creative and research-based writing had no place in writing Writ of Summons, Entries of Appearances, and drafts of other legal documents.  For the first time in years, I was seeing more red pen on my papers than I was totally comfortable with, and let me just say now – I felt pretty crappy about it.  My writing was always the one thing I felt utterly confident in.

When I talked to my mom about it, she had one thing to say that completely resonated.  She told me “Kiersten, that’s just how lawyers are.”  She actually laughed – the one woman I’d always gone to when I knew I needed criticism.  The one who I knew would say “honey, you need to do this again.  It’s not good enough yet.”  My mom was the person I trusted to tell me if she believed I wasn’t cut out for this career, especially since it was a field she’d worked in for years. And instead of confirming my fears, she’d told me the one thing I hadn’t been expecting: that this harsh criticism, without a single word for what I was doing right, was exactly what I should expect for the rest of my life as I work with lawyers.

It was a simple phrase, and it was one that I realized later didn’t just apply to my new job.  It resounded in everything – in the criticism I will continue to receive at work, and which I will inevitably encounter as a writer, particularly on my blog. Criticism is not going to go away, and it does not mean we are a failure at what we are attempting.  In fact, it is a wonderful motivator – an indication of what we have to work on, of what we should change and of which remarks we should simply disregard.

Criticism is, in the slightly altered words of my mother, just how life is.

What’s Your Letters?*

No, not your number – the somewhat insulting question we’ve all heard whether it was directed at us, or depicted in the media.  What I want to know is, what are your letters according to the Myers-Briggs Personality Test?

By the time I took that test (for the first time), I wasn’t even slightly surprised to find it tell me I am an INFJ.  Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, Judging.  I don’t think any personality test could define me better, and I guess that was the point.

I’ve known from a young age that I’m what most would describe as “shy,” and for years, that’s how I defined it too.  Until I realized that I’m not the slightest bit shy.  In fact, if you were to suggest to some of my closest friends that I’m a shy person, they’d probably laugh at you as they recall how loud and talkative I can be with them.  What I am is introverted, and this test put it into words for me.

All through college, I went to probably 10 or 20 parties, and I stayed friends with the group of 10 wonderful people I met in my first month living in my freshman year dorm.  To this day, I’ve only been to a few of the bars in my town, and I tend to only want to go to one of them.  I have a better time with a group of three people than I ever will in a crowd.  And by senior year, I was pretty upset about that – if there was any one thing I could change in an instant, that was it.  I wanted to want to go out on Friday night, to go to parties at frat houses and spend hours getting to know people I’d never met before.  But for me, it was exhausting – I had fun while I was there, spending time with my friends and meeting new people.  And it wasn’t as though I was quiet or somehow on the edge.  But by the end of the night, I wanted to go home.  I couldn’t spend one more minute at that party, and all I wanted was to sleep.

But do you know what else my INFJ personality says about me?  It’s not a one-sided definition, and that’s one of the things I love about it (you know, apart from the Quizilla tests we all took back in middle-school that told me, point blank, “you are Ariel” or a cat, or the color orange, or any number of other outcomes that was intended to suggest my personality).  INFJs are multi-dimensional, and they’re difficult to classify as one or the other.  We are both creative and responsible, artistic and logical, holistic and analytic, at least according to this pretty in-depth description of my “type”.

I am intuitive, in that I’d rather focus on the whole picture, rather than each detail of it (maybe this is why I’m awful at puzzles?).  I prefer my personal experiences and feelings over fact and proven logic (does this explain why I absolutely never plan anything, and would rather fly by the seat of my pants, as they say?).

As it turns out, INFJs make pretty good bloggers (and teachers, ministers, counselors, journalists, team leaders….), so maybe that explains why I couldn’t let this piece of the Internet go, and why so many of us here in the Blogosphere say we’re introverted.  For all the things I sometimes wish I could change about myself (my lack of decision-making skills, my disposition towards introversion and the occasional, ever so quiet and ridiculous fear that this may lead to my ending up alone piled over in cats one day), there are things about this personality type – my personality type – that I love (my forever being in the gray of life, between creative and responsible, spiritual and scientific, artistic and logical).

So…what are your letters? Of the 16 personality types, which are you?

*Yes, I realize that title is grammatically incorrect.  Yes, it was on purpose.

Finding Happiness in the Monotony of Contentment

Sometimes, I think it’s important to give yourself a little reminder of all the things you have to be happy about, like good friends and delicious tea.  Between the fear and monotony of job hunting, the exhaustion of a waitressing job five to seven days a week at two different restaurants, bills piling up, and broken window latches, it’s easy to lose sight of happiness and settle for just content on most days.

here

With all the things pulling us down, it’s so so difficult to lift ourselves up and put a smile on our face each day.  But I’m a firm believer that it’s impossible to make it through this life without a little bit of happiness, and a whole lot of hope.

Let’s face it – things could be a hell of a lot simpler.  For the most part, we do a lot of this to ourselves with 9-5 jobs, bills, and a one-track mind on the next step.  So much of the time, we forget to pay attention to the here and now, to the beautiful moment we’re in and the success we had today. I certainly know I’m guilty of this.  Hell – within five minutes of grasping my diploma in my hand, the smile was wiped off my face and replaced by the utter terror of “what the hell do I do now?” And I could see that same exact fear on the faces of my now former-classmates sitting all around me. And just in case I didn’t reach that terror on my own, I get asked “so what are you doing now” by well-meaning people almost daily.

Don’t get me wrong – the future is important.  I know that I have to figure out what comes next, and the people asking me about it are only trying to help the best way they know how.  But as a society, we have a one-track mind on monetary and job-related success.  Those are great things!  But they aren’t the only things.  And I think I’ve come to the conclusion that if I did have to pick one thing, it’d be happiness.

I may be the last person who should be saying this given my sordid history with happiness (a story for another day…should I ever get the courage to tell it), but “just content” is no way to live, and starting today I want to make sure that I never (or…usually don’t) forget that.

Starting today, I want to trade “content” for “happy.”