Stealing Ideas: Burgers on English Muffins

I was reading a few other creativity blogs recently and thought that others may be stealing ideas.

“Hmmm. That looks familiar.”

Then, as I kept reading, some of the content felt as if I’d written it.

“I think they took that off my blog and rewrote it. Rude.”

Caught in the Act
Thief – Saxon via Compfight

I started to get a wee bit jealous that some of my content has seemingly been repurposed by other writers.

But here’s the truth…

1. Jealously is the death of creativity (commandment 6). 

It’s wasted energy. So I chose to stop thinking and feeling that way but working on my other projects.

2. I’m Not Immune to stealing ideas.

As artists, we have to feed ourselves and stimulate our creativity by reading, observing, and enjoying other artist’s work. I’ll just bet many of my ‘original ideas’ were unconsciously borrowed.

3. Package it better.

I ate a burger on an english muffin this past weekend and it was amazing. A new take on the same old burger compliments of a simple english muffin. Package an idea better and it becomes entirely new.

Question: What do you think about stealing ideas?

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Author: Andrew Zahn

I'm a son, husband, dad, business owner, actor and good sleeper/eater. On this blog, I pave a highway for creative growth by providing food, water, and shelter for those wishing to live, work, and play with creative zest.

  • Two quotes come to mind… actually three.

    1. “Imitation is the sincerest of flattery.” Charles Caleb Colton.
    2. “Lesser artists borrow, great artists steal.” Igor Stravinsky (a variation is attributed to Picasso)
    and probably the most humbling for creatives
    3.”Sub sole nihil novi est.” (There is nothing new under the sun) Eccles. 1:9

    Still, it’s not nice to take stuff. I think it should be about making different connections, like a muffin burger.

    • Andrew Zahn

      Love the quotes Michael!

      Combining ideas is how new creations are made. Though nothing is ‘new’ we can offer our take on it like Daryl says in his comment on this post. Because we’re unique, we can make it fresh and give an idea a different voice.

  • It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. That being said, at least some kind of credit should be given. Even if it’s just a wee little postscript saying, “hey…check out so-and-so for more etc.”

    Is there truly no original thoughts left in the world? How depressing.

    • Andrew Zahn

      Hey Kat!

      I totally agree. If we don’t want to be plagiarized, we shouldn’t do the same thing to our fellow creatives.

      It just spurs me on to be original and repackage an idea and make it even better.

      So grateful to have you stop by Kat!

  • I am inspired by so many blog posts that sometimes I just want to give my take on a subject. I will probably do that with one I read today that made me think of two I could write.

    • Andrew Zahn

      Cool beans Larry!

      That’s why I come to your site… to get your take. Which is unique (and not stealing).

  • Daryl

    I have pondered this question a lot over the past couple years, as I have been in grad school, where it is taboo to plagiarize (though it does happen). In academia, giving proper credit to one’s sources is a mandate, but sometimes that becomes very difficult to locate the original source when one’s source itself borrowed the idea. I suppose both in academia and in the art world, putting a new spin on old ideas is itself the art.

    One other thought: even when I’m doing a cover of someone else’s song, singing word for word and note for note, playing chord for chord, it still sounds different because I am a different instrument… and it will reach a new audience.

    • Andrew Zahn

      Such a refreshing take on the issue Daryl!

      Taking another’s work, personalizing it, and attributing credit to the original artist creates a community of honor.

  • First of all good for you for getting plagiarized! As most everyone above has already said, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (I think I stole that from somewhere). That just validates that what you have to say is resonating with your audience—enough for someone to take it and put their own name to it. I will many times take an idea from someone but at least I have the decency to credit them with the original idea. Sharing is one thing, stealing is another.

  • Oh and by the way? Hamburgers on English muffins sounds like pure genius! Can I steal your idea?

    • Andrew Zahn

      Yes Andy! Please steal my already stolen idea! It’s delightful!

  • PeterDeMaio

    I think we have to take into consideration that two writers can arrive at the same conclusion independently of one another. Once the information is out there anyone can grab it. An explanation of this could be attributed to the concept of collective unconscious, or a unifying traffic flow of information that we have access to simply by being human and aware. And since our findings will be written in the vernacular they may seem very similar but are in a technical sense, original. In conclusion, we musn’t assume our ideas have been stolen but should accept the chance that great minds do think alike.

    • Andrew Zahn

      Completely logical Peter. Thanks so much for stopping by!

      Exactly why I concede the point that I may have unconsciously borrowed the same idea from someone else. (see point #2 above)

      The crux of this post was to not take it personally because, in fact, just as you noted in your comment.

  • Hi!

    Just to play devil’s advocate here for a moment. Are you sure that they were stolen from you? Sure in some cases but people are having the same ideas at the same time all around the world. That is why it is always a race to get a product/invention to market before someone else beats you to it.

    Just my take. Not to discredit this post, I am sure you have influenced some people in a positive manor to share your perspective, but I believe that there are already other people out there that just have it too.

    • Andrew Zahn

      Hey Suzanne!

      Entirely possible… read point #2 above in the post.

  • It the idea was stolen from your blog and used on another – both will be date stamped, which can make things more interesting.

    The comedian Stewart Lee has a fascinating page on his website showing his original idea and the obvious plagiarism. You’ll be amazed at what people have got away with – including some big comedy names.

    http://www.stewartlee.co.uk/plagiarists.htm

  • Almost all art is derivative, as we are inspired by what we observe/consume. The question is how much of yourself are you contributing? Repackaging/reframing is a must, otherwise you are just making noise.

    There is also a fine line between plagiarism and paying tribute, I have started trying to toe that line by leaving a “inspirations for this” with links to what spawned the idea.

    I can look back over what I’ve written and tell what I was reading at the time. I wish that wasn’t true, but it stares me in the face.

    The greatest thing that came out of this post for me was: Jealousy is the death of creativity. Brilliant. If the time being jealous was spent on new creations, think how prolific we could be. Or if we actually did look on it as flattery. Maybe one day…

    • Andrew Zahn

      It’s very true… I’m so glad you wrote the word “almost” in your “almost all art is derivative” comment. Input/output is such a huge factor in determining our level of creativity.

      Thanks for stopping by Cole! I look forward to conversing and connecting with you.

      • I look forward to that as well! Glad you picked up on the “almost,” I do believe that original ideas and creations are out there, just much less common – and world changing when they happen.