How to NOT rip people off

The world would be a much nicer place if people didn’t steal other people’s shit. But that’s not the world we live in.

Today, we’re talking about what to do when someone else’s awesome idea sparks your own “F*ck Yeah” moment. i.e. How to NOT rip people off.

I started blogging under a pseudonym in 2008. Three years later, I stopped writing fiction and launched this site for writers, showing my face and name. I had plenty of inspiration: Danielle LaPorte, Ash Ambirge, Erika Napoletano – strong women who know who they are and what they represent. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to launch a business that showed people it’s okay to be exactly who you are.

I’m a writer. Naturally, this meant working to help writers unleash the beast. Helping them get out of their own way to just write whatever is rattling around in their heads.

My journey began with Danielle LaPorte’s Fire Starter Sessions, the kick in the ass I needed to DO something.

Then I found Ash Ambirge, who makes my brand of irreverence look like milk and cookies. By the way, she can – because she’s a marketing guru and a freaking copywriting genius.

Erika Napoletano taught me how to truly be myself, how to settle into my own skin and feel damn good about it. The sassy biz maven leads by example. I love her no-bullshit approach. I aspire to her level of professionalism and balls-to-the-wall we’re doing this now, no fucking excuses mantra.

I adopted pieces of each of these women in my own business. I didn’t take their words or their personas. I stayed true to who I am. But I got ballsy by watching them rock out in the interwebz.

Which brings me to today’s topic: It’s inevitable that we learn things from other people in our industry. What’s important is that we use those things to launch our next big (original) thing without stealing someone else’s hard work.


* One of my favorite go-to lines when I coach writers is, “We’re not curing cancer.” It means, “Hey, chill. No one is going to die if you write a sentence you don’t like. Just start. We’ll work it out.” I picked it up from a friend of mine in the dog show world (of all places). He knows I use it. He thinks it’s great.

I expect other writing coaches to tell their clients to chill. We each have our own way of talking people off the ledge – and writers often need to be talked off the ledge. But it’s not cool if they adopt “We’re not curing cancer” as their tagline.

* Most writing coaches talk about fear – a lot. Fear, after all, is what holds writers back. It has to be tackled immediately and aggressively. I’ve read millions of posts about the topic, and about how people approach it in varying industries. But I created my own way of addressing it with clients, a portion of which follows:

“It’s okay to be you. Because you are awesome. Your message is important. No one can share it the way you can.” And “You have to show people who you are and why they should care. Otherwise, you’re just one of a billion or so writers without a message that stands out. Rather than the author who throws her guts on the page and makes her words sing.” (Page 23 of THE Guide)

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

My point is the universe has thousands upon thousands of books chock-full of writing advice. Chances are excellent that many writing coaches use the same ideas and principles to help their clients. It’s okay to pickup a concept you believe in and morph it into something tangible for your business. It’s not okay to take someone else’s ideas and represent them as your own.

And if, by chance, someone does approach you about material they feel infringes on their copyright, your best response would NOT be to block them on social media and unsubscribe them from your email list.

Just sayin’.

How to get your writing unstuck NOW

Fact: You can write whatever the hell you want.

Fact: It doesn’t matter what your mother, neighbor, spouse, teacher, kids, hairdresser or goddamned postman thinks of it.

Fact: Until you believe the two sentences above, you will not get out of your own way and just write.

I’ve lost count of the number of writers I worked with who didn’t think they had the stuff, worried incessantly what everyone else thought, and then got blocked. Oh yeah, because it’s ALL of them.

I hate to repeat myself, but I will. Of course you think you suck. Only shitty writers believe they’re any good.

We all have an internal editor harping on us from every angle imaginable.

Oh, don’t say that. It sounds trite.

But what will Aunt Paula think if I leave her out?

Jesus, my boss will freak if he reads this.

And we wonder why we get stuck?

If you question every paragraph, sentence, word you jot down, you’re brain is not going to keep generating ideas.

The good news is you get to pick: Do you want to create or critique? ‘Cause you can’t do both at the same time. Writing is referred to as a process for a reason. It has two steps, which use two different parts of your brain. The first step is to motherfucking write. The second is to motherfucking edit. (Yeah, I said it. Twice.)

Case-in-point: My 10 year old is writing a book. For the hell of it. He’s spent hours upon hours within earshot of my coaching phone calls with writers, and my group writing classes, and even casual chats with writer friends. He knows my tools well. He knows how to push past the crap that stops you from saying what you need to say. Evidently, he also knows how to spell it out for the folks at home.

Below is a small portion of the prologue for his as yet unnamed book. (He started it last night.)

Mostly, I am here to take that black thing – that squishy itch –  that spot in your heart that says, ‘Nope. That won’t do,’ or ‘Are you kidding me?’ That one spot that keeps you from moving on. From taking that next step. I am here to take that spot and throw it into oblivion, and put a little thing I like to call imagination in its place …

His first chapter is called “Dragons.” I’ll keep you posted.

My point? He’s fucking 10 and he can do it. Your excuse is not valid.

Yes, you will beat yourself up when you write. Yes, you may hedge and clear your throat on the page ad nauseum. Yes, you can and will get past all of that and tell your story.

This is about tenacity.

It’s about how bad you want a thing.

It’s about being tired, overwhelmed, frustrated, anxious and scared – AND DOING IT ANYWAY.

It’s about looking yourself in the mirror, knowing in your heart you have a story to tell, and having the conviction to live out your dream.

Because if you really want to write, you’re not wasting time.

And frankly, the worst thing you ever write is far better than anything you never write.

So let’s just tell self-doubt to go fuck itself, mkay?


Subscribe in the upper right hand corner and grab my free book A Writer’s Voice, designed to help you write like YOU. So you can say what you want to say, how you want to say it – and stop worrying about what everyone else thinks (and quit writing like a pretentious asshat). It matters.