It’s a true phrase, someone coined it, but it still irritates the crap out of me.
I was consoled with this line once, when I was savagely accused of plagiarism. Yes, I said savagely. Dramatic? Yes. Called for? Absolutely.
I will not be plugging in any direct quotes from this savage, day-long exchange between myself and he-who-shall-remain-nameless, as I deleted all evidence of the aforementioned exchange. It was that nauseating. I felt that sickened by it.
It was an ordinary afternoon, and I was buzzing from the high a writer gets after one of their articles is published when I sat down to read the comments on my piece. It was delightfully well-received, save for one comment. It was a long comment. It was a hostile comment. It was not a comment at all but an accusation, and a demand that I admit to the plagiarism of which I was being accused.
I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach.
I will tell my truth one time: I did not, nor have I ever, plagiarized another writer’s work. I am a Lit Major, and therefore meticulously trained to be a notorious citer and quoter, and a serious writer. Writers with confidence don’t plagiarize. End of discussion.
He was accusing me of plagiarizing from one of his articles posted on the same website. I was baffled. He kindly included the link to the piece he thought I stole. Naturally, I clicked on it.
I had totally read that piece! I didn’t remember it as I read it, but then I saw I’d even left a comment on it! A little one word comment, but a comment nonetheless. So I’d definitely read it. So he definitely had a right to suspect I may have plagiarized. The topic was nearly the same. But I could not tell you for the life of me when I’d read his piece.
What I can tell you is that I read eight out of ten of the article MindBodyGreen posts on their spectacular site every single day. I’m obsessed with the wealth of knowledge they provide. I can also tell you that it’s almost incessant that new articles are posted that very closely reflect older articles; why does this happen? Because if there are a hundred different facts out there, then there are a hundred different opinions about those facts. There are a hundred different ways to explain those facts. There are a hundred different ways one might discuss the realm of those facts. You get the picture.
I’ve seen articles go up that are very similar to articles I’ve already written, and you know what? I read them. No, no, I devour them! Because it’s clearly a topic I’m interested in! I think it’s stellar that the topic is so widespread and well-received that people continue to write about it and we all continue to devour and share the information!
Well, he-who-shall-reamin-nameless was less than likeminded. He was convinced I’d “stolen” his piece. He stopped even using the world “plagiarism” and went all pirate on me, slinging around “thief” and “stolen” like they were “please” and “thank you.”
I responded with kindness, and perhaps a smidgen of indifference, as there was no merit to his accusation whatsoever to even acknowledge. I simply gave it a, Wow, I can actually kind of see now how you might have thought that! But I assure you it is not the case, and they are actually very different articles, though we clearly share a passion for wellness and the topic. Cheers!
No such luck.
He-who-shall-remain-nameless fired back, and he fired back all…day…LONG.
I may have turned snarky at this point saying something along the lines of, While I think you had a well-written article, I frankly didn’t think your piece was that great…certainly not so great that I’d plagiarize for the first time in my life.
He continued on to send me a piece by piece run-down of how each of my key points were reworded versions of his own. This was simply confusing and nothing short of belittling, as I had done research on this topic! There are like, LOTS of articles out there already on this exact topic that he and I (and God knows how many other people) have written about. It’s about fact, not about opinion, I merely presented facts in my piece. Facts that he was claiming were his own. Puh-lease.
I finally got to the point where I had to tell him his behavior had crossed into harassment and simply had to stop immediately, and then I blocked him.
The whole thing was VERY frustrating, very sickening and very horrifying as a writer.
The worst part? I think the guy is a spectacular writer. I think he’s wildly intelligent. I admire his perspective in every single piece of his that I’ve read. But he attacked me. Over the internet, hidden behind a computer screen, harshly typed words seething with venomous anger that burned and watered my eyes. I found myself telling the story to friends (with little to no context) simply to tell them I’d not plagiarized this guy. I felt like defending myself from the rooftops. But why, when I was innocent, did I feel the desperate need to present my defense?
Because when you’re accused of something you did, you tuck your tail and hide. When you’re accused of something you didn’t do, you want to pull a megaphone from your handbag and bellow into the abyss, “I DIDN’T DOOOOOOO ITTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
I waited to write about this until I was over it. Until the anger and hurt bubbled away and all that was left was a lesson and a heightened sense of awareness. Coincidences occur, as does imitation, of both the conscious and unconscious sort. I’m a writer, this is likely not the last time I’ll be wrongfully accused of plagiarism. The only thing I can guarantee is that I’ll never, ever, ever be rightfully accused of plagiarism. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I can barely keep up with scribbling down the ideas I come up with on my own to ever need to dip into someone else’s ink pot!
So, while imitation may be “the sincerest form of flattery” one might offer another person, the sincerest form of flattery for the Self is living, writing and speaking the most honest, pure, undiluted truth that there ever was.