Newsletter #21 – Epic Twitter Meltdowns…And How To Avoid Being In One

Hey everyone,

If you were anywhere near writing Twitter last week, you will have seen a pretty awkward thread-tantrum from a writer that accused another creator of stealing their content.

This thread exploded (and not in the direction the OP had hoped), with dozens of other writers weighing in on plagiarism and the repurposing of content.

The tweet has since disappeared, but here’s a snippet of what you missed:

Click on ‘display images’ if you can’t see it!

Ouch. Talk about getting a smackdown.

The “stolen” phrases in question here included:

  • Clear over clever
  • Slippery slope
  • Specificity is the secret

As writers, I’m sure we can all agree that these are fairly well-known concepts in the world of copywriting, marketing, and advertising.

The creator that “stole” these phrases recently made about $140,000 from the launch of his first course, and made this very public knowledge, which may have raised some hackles.

But did he steal from the Ship 30 for 30 course, which he had taken previously? Or was he simply repackaging some pretty standard writing advice that has been around for decades?

I haven’t taken either course btw, so this is rhetorical!

This tweet-fest raised some interesting questions about how we find, repurpose, and publish ideas that we see online in today’s info-saturated interweb, and how we can avoid getting tangled up in drama like this.

We’re all online for hours every day, consuming thousands of words and thoughts from other people — so the chances of us writing something that sounds similar to someone else is pretty darned high in 2023.

And honestly, I find most of social media these days is an echo chamber of the same fluffy, rehashed stuff, especially on accounts with big followings.

So what is “stealing” these days? What counts as repurposing? What crosses the line, and what’s okay?

For me, copy-pasting is never okay, unless you give specific credit. Plagiarism is lazy, and it sucks for the people who came up with some unique ideas and had them copied word for word.

I could dramatically unfurl a lengthy parchment scroll of copywriters who have had everything stolen from their website copy, to images, to social profiles, to entire courses – which is not cool!

But I get it. We all see things online we realllllly wish we’d written ourselves.

So how do we turn these things into content we can use to grow our own brand and business in an ethical way – without plagiarising?

Enter, your swipe file

In his excellent book Steal Like An Artist, Austin Kleon says that nothing is original, so we need to learn how to remix existing content in a way that sparks our own creativity — “Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by”.

That means bookmarking a LinkedIn carousel, saving those interesting tweet threads, screencapping article snippets, or dropping notes into a Google doc so you don’t forget them.

Whatever grabs your attention and speaks to you (even if it’s not related to your industry) is something you can use further down the track to mix and match in your brain, and create something fresh with.

The most important part here is that you’re analyzing the hooks, ideas, and formulas of these content swipes and then reimagining them in a way that’s uniquely yours in tone, style, and brand.

You’re not simply cutting and pasting stuff.

Here’s a few resources you can check out to learn more about how swipe files can help you generate a ton of fresh content for social media and blogs, and how to avoid being the target of another creator’s tweet-rage.

Procrastination Station

  • Scream into the void – having a crappy day? Client being a jerk again? Let it all out here
  • R/funny – if you haven’t experienced the joy of procrastinating in Reddit’s largest humor channel, now’s the time!
  • MapCrunch – explore the planet without leaving your chair. Click the green GO button to be transported all over the world to random locations with the power of Google Maps.

Memes of the week

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Catch you next Monday!


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