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The Art Of Borrowing Ideas: What A Copywriter Should Know


“It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”

Jean-Luc Godard   

Just fancy, you were asked to depict an artist. What image would you suggest? It may be a man wearing a big knitted beret with a tiny pom pom, paint stained shirt and trousers, as well as a pair of never laced bright boots. Being lost in thought, he’s standing in front of an easel trying desperately to find the exact colors for another wonderful landscape… Well, do copywriters look similarly? Probably only those who are fond of painting…

So, when you are asked to think of as many associations for the word “art” as possible, copywriters are likely to be at the end of the list, if any at all. And it’s no wonder, as this kind of profession initially refers to marketing. But could you claim that marketing has nothing to do with art at all?

Hmm… Getcha! The notions of copywriting and art are tied together by “bonds of creativity”.

Are Copywriters and Artists In The Same Boat?

Yes, they are! Since all of them are looking for creative approaches to what they do by developing new ideas and finding unusual ways of their realization. However, to be inspired is a hard work, because much has already been said, depicted, written etc.

To create something unique often seems to be next to impossible. Nowadays a great many people switch to cheating or plagiarizing being either too lazy or too disappointed to create something by themselves. But it’s not the way out, isn’t it?

Who Knows The Difference Between Borrowing And Stealing?

Once you decide not to become one of “the warriors of darkness”, you are sure to get a high appraisal. Being able to generate new ideas before the ink is dry is even more appreciated. But what should you do when you haven’t got this gift? You may borrow ideas from others. But first you need to know how to tell borrowing from stealing.

The term “borrowing” here means, that you peep in somebody’s works with the only purpose of getting inspired. In case you’d like to reproduce somebody’s ideas word-for-word you won’t be accused of plagiarism, provided you apply quotation/citation rules properly. This kind of plan works well when you find ideas fixed in written or any other tangible form.

As you must have guessed already, “stealing” is a completely opposite notion. Actually, it’s nothing but plagiarism, which will bring you no good.

But what if you want to make use of the ideas, that were not duly recorded? Is it considered to be stealing as well? Yes! Yes, it is! You’ll hardly ever be charged with plagiarizing though, but you risk to lose all your credibility points, once the negative comments about you are spread all over the web. To avoid getting into trouble, you’d better ask for the author’s permission to take an advantage of his or her ideas. Besides you’d better do it in written form, just in case…

Does The Copyright Law Protect Your Ideas From Plagiarists?

Borrowing or stealing ideas may falsely be attributed to the copyright responsibility area. However, mere ideas, concepts, techniques, styles, names, designs, etc. are not subject to the Copyright Law protection, they refer to the Intellectual Property law, instead, e.g.:

You can’t accuse anybody of shooting a film about a dog, only because you were the first to create such a character. But you still do have the right to make a complaint about an intellectual property infringement, when you find out, that somebody’s shot a film, in which he/she named the dog Lassie, the way that you did. 

March To The Beat Of A Different Drummer!

So, how can you borrow legally? Here is a shortlist of the prompts to help you do it right:

  • Whatever you borrow, adjust it according to your personal style of writing. It means that you should practice cooking the dish differently having the same ingredients. It may turn to be tough, but don’t become upset over this, since every smallest personalized detail can help add on to your originality.
  • Push the boundaries by picking ideas related to various fields of human’s activity. The next step is to switch on your imagination and interpret them appropriately by using such literary devices as metaphors, comparisons, flashbacks, etc.
  • For example, let’s imagine that you are fond of the vanguard painting. So, why not contrast your statements in the vanguard manner by comparing the opposites? Besides, the introductory passages to this article were inspired while examining new illustrations to the famous fairy-tale.
  • Don’t hesitate to disagree or pursue the thought you quoted. Reading contradictory points of view is always amusing, especially when they are well-grounded. Thus, you are welcome to practice the same.
  • Think outside the box! By making things topsy turvy you will certainly attract more readers to your post. These tricks are often used in film scenarios, i.e. start with a summary and complete your article with an introduction. You may also fall back on some general statements and make them more specific by paying your attention to a particular thought or a number of related examples.
  • To avoid similar posts, keep on looking for not commonly used sources for borrowing ideas from, like mottos, forums, live journals, readers’ comments, beloved phone applications, etc. In addition you may find success stories quite helpful too, e.g.:

When I was training for my first marathon, for example, I read all kinds of success stories of people who had run their first marathon. It inspired me to keep going. There are success stories for writing, or anything else you’d like to do, that will inspire your brains out.” [2]

So, whenever you are at a loss, remind yourself of a very good saying:

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

by George Eliot [3]

P.S.: What are your recipes for proper borrowing? Please, leave your comments below! 

  • borrowing, 
  • create, 
  • ideas, 
  • plagiarism, 

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