Every now and then you hit a professional milestone.
I remember teaching my first class as a professor. I stood in front of a room full of undergraduate students and started talking and the weirdest thing happened, they started taking notes. People were taking notes on what I was saying!! I’ll be honest, I totally freaked me out.
I had a student quote me in a paper once. He got the citation right and everything. Sure I said quote authoritative sources, but I wasn’t talking about me. I was shocked, but secretly thrilled to know that I was being taken seriously.
In my professional life, I’ve hit a lot of firsts – hired an employee, fired and employee, sold a project, lost a sale.
Some milestones feel great and some don’t.
Today I hit a not so great one – I’ve been plagiarized. I suppose I should be flattered. After all being plagiarized must mean your writing is good. But I’m not flattered. In fact, I’m pretty peeved.
Let me be clear, so you walk away from the computer today with no doubts:
Plagiarism is stealing.
It’s taking words someone else worked hard to create, craft and refine and trying to pass them off as your own. It’s copying someone’s work. And, if you ask me (which I’m assuming you did because you are here) plagiarism is pretty darn lazy.
Writing is hard. It’s hard to slog your way through thousands and thousands of words, only to read them back and realize they aren’t that great. It’s hard to revise and revise until you finally get somewhere. It’s hard to muster up the courage to put words out into the world, for real live people to read.
Maybe you feel stuck, so you decide to pull a paragraph or two and use them as a jumping off point. What’s the harm? No one will know, right?
Guess what dude? It’s called google! Now when you decide to lift a few lines from someone’s work, it’s pretty easy to figure out.
Writing is a community and writers are soldiers in arms. You don’t betray each other. You don’t rip each other off. Want to be a writer? Do your own work. Put your time in. Draft and delete 100,000 words like the rest of us have had to do.
Once you put it on paper or on the screen it’s yours. The work on this blog (or any of my other work for that matter) is copyrighted. We’ll be adjusting the site so that my ownership of this material is much clearer.
(Oh and just to be clear, the massive shift in voice between your writing and mine is totally going to give you away – so good luck with that. And I do have a lawyer. Usually I use him to negotiate client contracts, but I’d be happy to send him after you too. )