I have had this weighing on my heart for a few weeks now and feel compelled to (hopefully!) start an open dialogue in the world of Christian creative businesses.
Over the last year I have been overwhelmed as I look at instagram pictures and see such similar things from one designer to another. I saw it happen to a few friends specifically and it hurt my heart to see blatant copying in an industry that I believe is held to a higher standard.
And the crazy thing is, nothing is being said or done. We’ve blanketed this topic with “Jesus answers” like:
- You should trust God to provide for you.
- We should turn the other cheek.
- If their product is glorifying God, why wouldn’t we be happy to see God’s message spread?
- It’s God’s ideas anyway.
I believe there is truth in this, but we’ve allowed these things to justify a lack of integrity in business.
I have felt my own struggles with this, but in reality, it is small potatoes compared to what some other designers are going through. When talking with one of these friends recently they asked how we should respond. I had never thought about actually making a positive change and her asking that question had me thinking that it doesn’t have to stay this way. I started working through what I’m about to share in my own life. I hope it will help someone else out there and maybe change our industry for the better.
HOW TO RESPOND TO COPYCATS
1. Find the balance between denying your feelings and having a pity party. Your heart will hurt. To a sea of people who have never had an idea stolen or who do not make a living from that idea, it will seem like no big deal and even flattery. (Whoever came up with that quote had to be talking about copying an outfit and not a business ; ) this can make us a little defensive (it sure has me) and either pout and whine or just shutup altogether. Truth: All things are important to The Lord. Nothing is too small to bring to him. And at the same time don’t let it become an idol or focus. This is tough but so important that we don’t spiral into pride and hypocriticism.
2. Don’t let your feelings change how you respond to the offender. Just because you have been hurt doesn’t mean you need to destroy the other person’s reputation in the eyes of others. This hurts your own integrity and kind of defeats the purpose. The greatest way you can glorify God is showing love even when it feels undeserved.
3. Pray for them. Not in a sad, condescending “they need Jesus way.” Those motives aren’t pure at all and just keep us in a judgy place. Instead, pray the Lord will bless them. This has the power to change our hearts, which in most of these situations, is the only thing we have the power to change.
4. Separate yourself from the offender. Unfollow them on Instagram if you were following them. And even people who post about them. Meditate on this verse.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8
HOW TO RESPOND TO YOUR OWN WORK
1. Pray for an open heart and teachable spirit. It’s definitely going to be needed.
2. Ask yourself if you have been guilty of copying. And answer honestly. I’ll be the first to say, when I felt the sting of a copycat prayer journal, I quickly thought “have I done this to someone? Because it stinks.” Seriously Val. Think hard. It’s vitally important for us to “get the plank of out our own eye” and not be hypocritical. If I’m being totally honest, the answer is yes I have. My heart hopes that this post will inspired people to be honest about their work, so to get that started, I’ll share one way I realized I have copied: In the past when I was doing custom designs, I would recreate designs of pictures brides sent me for less expensive. I told myself it was ok because we’d change something on it so it wasn’t exactly the same and I wanted my brides to get great designs no matter the budget. I’m embarrassed to even admit that because it shows how little I respected those original designs.
3. Define the line between copying and being inspired. Reading the quote below from Jason Fried a while back TOTALLY helped me to avoid any gray areas. Most of the time, copying is not intentional so this is a great way to put aside objective rationalizations we can make for our work and make it subjective. Literally, how much time did I put in? Was more than half the design done for me? Did you start with someone else’s design as a template and just make changes?
“How do you know if your copying someone? If someone else is doing the bulk of the work, you’re copying. Be influenced, but don’t steal.” – Jason Fried
3. Seek to glorify God through your creativity. Jason puts things pretty bluntly, but it’s true all the same. Copying off someone else means you are likely ignoring something amazing God has in store for you and wants you specifically to be a part of. This circles back to the idea that they are all God’s ideas. It’s true. The prayer journals were something God put on my heart. I don’t take credit for it. What idea has God put on your heart that the world NEEDS and would be sad to miss out on?
“If you’re a copycat, you can never keep up. You’re always in the passive position. You never lead; you always follow. You give birth to something that’s already behind the times – just a knockoff, an inferior version of the original. That’s no way to live.” – Jason Fried
4. Look for inspiration outside your industry. My first few wedding collections were inspired by other invitations. This year and last, I looked more to fashion, art, interior design and branding and was able to create designs I was truly proud of and felt comfortable to show the world knowing they didn’t look like someone else’s work. It’s still a challenge though because I LOVE looking at pretty paper, but I do strive to look more outside my industry than more in it because I know it will protect me from even subconsciously copying other people’s designs.
I’ll be honest, I am so scared to this post this. I know some of you may still feel it’s not Christian to address this or maybe see this as a source of pride for my work. Or that I think I have this all figured out. To answer that, I don’t. I’m just trying to figure it out too. This is not my battle against a prayer journal copycat. This is my challenge for us all to simply live up to our potential.
There are days I want to chunk my phone across the room when I see one post with this quote on a print and two seconds later another using similar fonts, colors, merchants, props. Some is innocent coincidence, but some is not and my heart has the hardest time understanding how we as Christian women can have so little respect for other people’s work.
My hopes are that we can restore a sense of support, encouragement and safety to share creative ideas without keeping up a wall of defenses around an idea because we’re afraid our Christian sisters will take the idea (down to specific details) all in the name of “God laid it on my heart.” Let’s stand on the creativity God gave us even when He does lay on our heart to create another “fill-in-the-blank.” If He really did inspire us, He’ll also give us creativity to make it completely unique and not a copycat.
Update: The thoughts in this post inspired me and a friend to create Shop Girl’s Code. It’s a code for kingdom-led creatives and includes some heart check questions as well as prayers to pray for your business. Click here for more info!