Why Your Blogging Success Relies on Copying

    your blogging success

    Your blogging success comes down to some simple processes.

    One of these is copying.  Copying is how we all learn.

    From early childhood through to adulthood we are in a continuous cycle of copying, reimagining and combining.

    Blogging is no different – by emulating things we read, see and hear we then become comfortable with our tools of trade and are inspired to remix, recreate and reimagine new different derivatives of the original.

    At first, newbie bloggers may copy, but good newbies copy and try to understand how it works in the overall scheme of blogging. Further still, a great newbie may also copy, but with modifications based on what they’ve learnt. The difference between the three newbies is up to their ability, their drive to improve and their level of expectation from themselves.

    The true essence of this argument is the ‘thinking’ that’s done behind the copying. That defines how well you learn and in fact if you learn at all. It’s being spoon-fed versus being told which spoon to use and how to use it.

    We learn technique from emulation. And being great at something (including blogging), is sometimes defined by how well one masters technique, not by originality.

    No one is truly original. By connecting the great ideas of others (through initially copying), some of the greatest leaps of ‘originality’ have occurred.

    Blogging is no different.

    The Copy-learning cycle

    Look back to when you learnt to write your name.

    For most of us, we first learnt this by someone writing it for us, and we then copied it. When you wrote your first blog post, I bet you copied a favourite post from another site. That doesn’t mean you cut and paste. Instead, you learnt the basics by copying the techniques, and then over time you changed them; and in the process, found out what happens when you do.

    The difference between those who actually make it (in anything, not just blogging) and those who fail is the willingness to take the hard road. The easy road will eventually end because you’ll run out of things to copy-by-rote, which will either force you to learn, or force you to give up.

    If you don’t make the effort to learn from your copying and starting to make your own interpretations, then you will undoubtedly fail. But once you’ve learnt the things necessary to start making your own blog a success, you must then start the creation process.

    Combine, connect, modify

    People learn from their own drive to improve, and their own expectation of themselves. To clarify, it’s not actually through the cloning or copying that you learn, it’s how you rework it so that the expression becomes your own, how it synthesizes your own ideas with the source.

    That’s technically how you learn from copying.

    Here’s where it gets most fascinating. From copying, you then begin to understand, and from understanding you then start to play and transform. You’ll connect and combine ideas, thoughts, styles, contents; transforming and fusing them into something new. Finally, to make sure you understand everything, you’ll try modifying. If the result of your modification meets with your expectations, then you have finally learned something.

    So the process of learning and creating is: copy, understand, connect, combine and rework, then create your own reinterpretation (of what was once just an exercise in copying).

    Substance, style and structure

    Once you’ve gained the knowledge, confidence and ability to make your own decisions on structure, style, substance, design and implementation, then you have diverged from copying.

    Funnily enough, as soon as you start copying from more than one source, then copying as a mindless exercise doesn’t work anymore. At this point, you are forced to start to understand what you are doing – otherwise you won’t be able to integrate the pieces into something passionate and effective.

    The structure of your blog and layouts will take shape, plugins, links and sharing tools will be added, a whole network of support elements will start to form the web of your blog platform. This platform will then support your growing content strategy.

    Your content strategy is how your blog will convey your style and voice – your blog-mojo.

    First you will copy, study and incorporate the things you’ve learnt from others into your own work and blog. But blogging success has less to do with genius or talent, and more to do with the innate self-discipline to nurture your own talent to its full potential. With patience and practice, slowly your tone and mojo will start to shine and be recognisable as you.

    It will transform from a copy into your very own voice. Not a copy of another.

    Inspiration and reimagining

    Over the course of history, many great ‘inventors’ or ‘thought-leaders’ were in essence, remixers. They used the basic ideas and techniques that they’d collected and learnt, to inspire the creation of their own interpretation.

    Most artist’s first works are derivatives of another’s work and the tradition of copying the successful works of Old Masters to learn their secrets, is still carried on today by artists who wish to develop similar skills and sensitivities to form.

    Hunter S. Thompson re-typed F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms in order to learn about the writing styles of the authors and to get the feel of writing a great novel.

    In order to understand the words of our blogging-sages we need to put ourselves in their day-to-day shoes. They know how things feel and work and wear. We need to practice with their tools.

    Think of it this way – we’re all using the same building materials; we just assemble them in different ways – some better than others. You need to play around and learn and you’ll get better until you get good enough to create your own reimagined work.

    Some of the greatest original ideas have been born by copying and learning technique first, only to be remixed and reborn, and this is an important stage of the blogging process.

    You should leave yourself open to learning from copying others and using their work as reference to assist you in your own creations. It will help you to progress, learn and expand your own talents until someday… people will be copying you!

    Has this inspired you to learn-and-create? Let us know, in the comments.

    About the author

      Di Mace

      Di Mace is a marketing and business writer, editor, re-inventor, blogger, learner, searcher for the perfect pencil case and storyteller; basically she spins gold from the straw at hand. She blogs at Word Swords.

    • Timely. As an aspiring digital marketer and social media manager, I find blogging to be challenging. I consider myself a newbie blogger. Reading your post helps me understand the benefits of copying and how to go about to find my true voice. Thanks for sharing your insights.

    • Learning from others until the concepts and techniques are part of you is the only thing that allows you to go out and create something totally new.

    • Sam says:

      Well the headline was very aluring that it made me read this post. Yes, I would say instead of “copying” it can be “colloborating” which is more specific.
      But once again, great post.

    • It’s so wonderful seeing you here and watching you grow. I love how you compare it to learning to write our name. My grandson can make an ‘H,’ his name is Henri, and he is so proud! I know of a famous blogger that learned how to write better English by copying bloggers. Great post. Congrats!

    • Learning from others until the concepts and techniques are part of you is the only thing that allows you to go out and create something totally new.

    • Arne Tietz says:

      I so do agree. In my free time I’m a dancer of Argentine-Tango. And I’m good at it. Cause I copied the masters. Not trying to dance like them, but dancing as exact the same as I could. I wanted to get it how and why the teacher did it as he did it. By doing it this way I learned a lot more than others who just want to try as long as it feels easy and it won’t come in conflict to their own (undeveloped) style.
      After time I incorporated a few really good teachers and my kind of dancing evolves from a collection of the different ways of the teachers to an amazing style of my own.
      I’m often asked where I have learned to dance like this. But all I can say is “Learn from the best, during the lessons dance exactly like them (copy them) and manifest this kind of dancing. It might be that when you learn by the same teachers as I did that you dance like me. But it is more likely that you dance different to me. But this way you WILL become a good dancer.”

      • What a wonderful analogy for the copying-learning process – I love it! Thanks for sharing it with us, and keep enjoying your bliss

    • DiMaci:
      This post resonates on many levels – and I appreciate the way you lay out simple progressive steps from imitation to emulation. Here’s my latest post at PsyToday on a related topic: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/tracking-wonder/201108/creative-admiration-envy-mastery

      I appreciate your other work, too, and will send some clients to your posts on writing and copywriting.


    • Very well-thought-out, and nicely written article! In my mind, the word “copy” can have a pejorative connotation, so the title of your post sure caught my attention! But as I continued to read your article, I relaxed a bit 🙂 And you are totally right in that a lot of what we learn, we learn by watching what others do, and then improving. In fact, your article can be a metaphor for a number of things we learn in life. We watch others, and we mentally mimick, then we improve upon, and then evolve. So it quickly became obvious your article wasn’t about “duplication,” or duplicating others’ hard work, but, rather, learning from and then improving upon and then creating one’s own original material.

      • I’m so glad you got my message – thanks for letting me know. And yes, the headline was rather inflamatory…but that is what they are designed to do – catch your attention.
        Duplication is not at all what its about – fundamentally for you to progress you must mimick, learn to interpret, pull it apart, remix and improve (on everything). As you say so well, we are constantly watching,learning, doing, progessing.

    • Rick says:

      Great post, Di. It made me think and realize that ultimately we’re all copying others from the day we’re born. Whether it be learning to walk or talk, we always learn it from someone else. Later on, doing something skillfully is how much you can improve on the copy. Now, blatant duplication is wrong but the best way to progress is to take a successful existing concept, and then find ways to do it better, rather than starting from scratch and reinvent the wheel on the way as well, so to speak.

      • Yes, yes, most of the great Masters, inventors and genius’ of old and our time were brilliant at improving on what had been done before. I agree that blantant duplication without respect or attribution is fundamentally wrong, but in the end nothing is original. We are all remixes of the ingredients at hand.

    • Don says:

      I teach this concept to photographer as well.

      The great jazz trumpet player Clark Terry said it so well:

      “Imitate. Assimilate. Innovate”

      It is pretty much the road most artists take.
      Learning from others until the concepts and techniques are part of you is the only thing that allows you to go out and create something totally new.

      • Exactly Don. Let them soak into your skin until they then bubble up again and come out as your own interpretation… Thanks.

    • Karen says:

      I think we all learn to write well by copying, although we don’t necessarily do it with this much purpose. That’s why there’s no such thing as an amazing writer who doesn’t read, but also why it’s not always necessary to read classic literature to become a great blogger. We just need to read the very best in the genre we’re writing in.

      • Hi Karen,
        Agreed. Although you don’t necessarily set out to ‘copy’ the writer/blogger – it’s more to use them as inspiration for your own remix and inspired ‘off the beaten track’ interpretation. Reading widely and deeply helps as well as you say…gives you more food for the creation-mill.

    • Joni says:

      Yes! This makes sense. When I was in school for my BS and Master’s degrees I would always copy my class notes and even rewrite chapters of my textbooks. This was the way I studied; it was a great way to remember facts. However, I never thought about copying in my writing career. But, why not? It worked for me in learning psychology. I can’t wait to try this. As a matter of fact, I am copying the blog as a start.

      Thank you so much for pointing this out.

    • It is important to observe what other bloggers are doing to learn what works. As you said in your post, that is the way to learn the skill of blogging. Thanks for breaking it down so clearly.

      • My pleasure Cathy. When I settled and allowed myself permission to accept this option it made my early bloggin life sooo much more inspiring.

    • I find inspiration with remixing from various sources and adding a few personal points that relate to what I’ve discovered. I cannot write posts far in advance because I’m more spontaneous with how I feel like writing a day or two before I post. Why is that?

      • I tend to find that I swing between forward planning with a calendar for the month (great WordPress plug in to do this), and spontaneous posts. Juggling life, home and work means I have to have ‘some up my sleeve’ as drafts in the calendar, but otherwise I do find that often the spur of the moment ones can be more passionate!

    • Perfectly, perfectly correct Amber. If we wait until we feel ‘complete’ then it will never happen. Make a start, and keep reworking, ruminating and massaging….in time your blog with have shaped itself around you as you have grown with it.

    • Amber says:

      Yes you have inspired me. I have a small business and have been pondering the possibility of developing a blog that considers each person’s heart print. Your post is helpful and a good reminder – I do not need to know everything about blogging right now I can observe the pros and find a groove that suits in time.

    • Hi Di,
      It’s so wonderful seeing you here and watching you grow. I love how you compare it to learning to write our name. My grandson can make an ‘H,’ his name is Henri, and he is so proud! I know of a famous blogger that learned how to write better English by copying bloggers. Great post. Congrats!

      • Thanks Tess.
        I remember spending hours and hours as a child, copying different styles of handwriting to perfect my own signature that ‘said something’ about me. Hillariously I was told by my fourth grade teacher that my handwriting was ‘too mature’ for my age – I’d obviously learnt too much for her to handle. But again it all boils down to copying to learn.

    • This is a great post full of excellent points. I had the pleasure of attending a reading and Q&A with the Georgia authors Lauretta Hannon (aka The Cracker Queen) and Terry Kay and Terry Kay also highly recommended the idea of copying the authors you aspire to write like or who you think write well and enjoy. I think it’s time to follow this advice regarding a novel length book. I know that I copy the style of a couple of bloggers and when I do that, the response is positive

      I’ll be sharing this link with all my friends.

      • Thanks so much Lisa. Looking at copying and learning from this perspective takes away the burden of have to ‘be original’ all the time – which I think is what causes writers block in many cases. When you remember that nothing is original, and look at everything as a remix it allows you to celebrate your own work as ‘your take’.

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