Closed vs Open Book

The internet can be a strange place sometimes. After talking this week about blogs, twitter and the online world with the lovely Jess and Kimberley, I took some time to reflect on how odd this virtual world can be. Sometimes the virtual can mess around with your ‘real world’.

The internet is a place to share thoughts, dreams, emotions and lives. It is therefore a dimension ruled by the philosophy of the ‘open book’. While we generally control how many pages of ourselves we reveal, sometimes it can be difficult to find the right balance.

Sometimes sharing is a really rewarding experience, but other times … like when you find your words, ideas or photos ‘borrowed’ for other people’s work … well, then it can be a little frustrating.

I feel like I’ve had some great ideas of late. Ideas about articles, opinion pieces and books that I want to write … ordinarily the kinds of things that I’d share the origin of. But I think sometimes online you have to be a little bit selfish with original ideas and creative inspiration, and keep some things for yourself … at least at first. Β From time to time the ‘closed book’ philosophy best applies.

As a creative person, how do you strike the balance with sharing and not sharing your original content (whatever that may be)? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


  1. Rol

    That’s an interesting question, considering how much of my own work I’ve published online. I guess I don’t really worry about someone taking that work and passing it off as their own or stealing ideas to use in their own work… perhaps I ought to be. At the end of the day, the desire to have my stories actually read overrules any fears of plagiarism.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Rol – I think over the years I’ve published lots of my original work / story concepts and ideas online without a second thought, but it’s only recently I’ve been thinking whether I should. I really like the way you look at the generosity of sharing … that it’s more important to have your stories read than worry about plagiarism … I think that’s a really positive way to look at putting creative work out into the world. Perhaps if we give creatively we will also receive creatively in return?? πŸ™‚

  2. Jess

    I definitely have times when I feel like this. Though usually for me it’s more a case of having personal life ‘stuff’ that I feel that I want to share, but at times I hold back because I want to keep it just for me, rather than sharing it with the world.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Jess – I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggles with such things from time to time … I was just thinking further on our discussion at dinner the other night, that from a creative / copyright perspective it can be challenging to get the balance between sharing and not sharing online right … I think I’d rarely share anything all that personal, but I do find it frustrating when I find really similar writing or ideas to my own replicated in other people’s later work … just another thing to add to the juggle that is the online world!

      Thanks for your thoughts! πŸ™‚

  3. Kimberley

    It was SO lovely to have met you, honestly I count you and Jess as such long time friends; even if we all work in different fields, have different blogs, but we all value a friendship whether it be online, or off, or interstate. (Geez, it brought me visiting from down South to unite the two of you!) Hehe

    But honestly; in regards to the broad question; I don’t think I am balanced. I think I’ve crossed that line a little too much, and expect a lot of certain people; that really don’t value me in the same way that I tend to. Not in a malicious way at all, but sometimes I have expectations of these ‘friends’ I follow, and tweet with too much, and then get disappointed if I feel ignored. But then again, how much could I rely on them in an emergency? Will they tweet if I’m unwell? If they don’t; does that mean they are ignoring me on purpose? No, probably not.

    I’m not sure if within this comment field I’d even find an answer. But I do want to cultivate friendships with those I can see would extend beyond 140 characters. And I do need to step back from those that only care about what coffee I’m drinking, or are possibly just night owls like me. Twitter has made me more social than I’d ever be; I’m not great at just going up to people in other departments at work, or making friends of friends, I’m too timid (believe it or not). But I definitely need a balance. Any ideas? πŸ™‚

    (Sorry for the rambly length..)

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Kimberley – Oh my, I don’t think I can adequately say with mere words just how truly wonderful it was to have met you. I feel like I’ve already known you for AGES, so meeting in person was the ‘icing on the cake’. Haha, I know – how funny is it that Jess and I took so long to meet eachother given that we live SO close by!?!?! (Thank goodness for your timely visit – the world can be such a crazy place!) … Lee and I had an absolute ball talking to you both about all things blog, movies, tv and life … next time we’re in Melbourne we’ll DEFINITELY be catching up with you in your wonderful state! πŸ˜€

      As for the topic at hand, I think finding that balance between sharing and not sharing things is really, really hard to find – I’m sure we’ve all had those situations where we think we shouldn’t share something for whatever reason, or self-censoring ourselves too far the other way for fear that we’ll alienate our readers / online friends etc. Especially on twitter I think it’s really easy to over analyse both our own and other people’s online behaviour. I completely know what you mean about having certain expectations on people … expectations that are not always followed through with reality (I’ve been there many times). I think sometimes because WE are the kinds of people who are willing to go above and beyond for our friends, we kind of expect the same in return … and in any case, perhaps we should?? Twitter introduces further complications – perhaps our followers are busy / off-line or whatever and just don’t get a chance to check in with us regularly or respond … but it sure can mess with your head! Perhaps that search for the right balance is something that we just continue to try and find … maybe it’s an ongoing journey??

      On the positive though, Twitter allows us to meet a whole range of wonderful people that we otherwise wouldn’t get to know and become friends with … I mean, without it it’s unlikely we would have otherwise crossed paths … and how awful that would be! So I suppose I’m saying that I’m not too sure how to find the balance either … but at least we can keep eachother company while we continue to search for the answers … πŸ˜€

      Absolutely no need to apologise for your wonderful response … apologies it’s taken me so long to get back to you … πŸ™‚

  4. Erika Lee Sears

    Well let me say a couple of tidbits of advice first. 1. Only Steal an idea if you can make it your own. 2. An idea is just an idea unless someone makes something and does something about it.

    I personally like to share ideas but not many people are like that. I think the hardest thing is when you give someone an idea or advice and they take it and then something wonderful happens and then you the person who gave them the idea gets no credit… the gold star. I think that’s why people keep their ideas/projects under wraps until it’s time to come out.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Erika – Oh thanks for your awesome advice … I think your words about ‘stealing an idea if you can make it you own’ are wonderful, and one I really need to remember from time to time. I must repeat those other brilliant words of yours, ‘an idea is just an idea unless someone does something about it’ … Perfect advice for this writing month where I need to make a story in my head a reality! You are so very wise!!! πŸ™‚

      I think it’s wonderful that you share your ideas – it’s a lovely way to put creative energy back out into the world and see what someone makes of it … with any luck a fantastic idea will be gifted back to each of us in just the same way – a kind of creative karma perhaps?? πŸ™‚

      1. Erika Lee Sears

        Yes creative karma.. exactly.

        πŸ™‚ You can do it. My friend is 10,000 words into novel writing month.. Where are you? πŸ™‚

        1. tracey (Post author)

          Hi Erika – I think I shall have to make ‘creative karma’ a personal mantra of mine. YAY for your friend achieving such an awesome word count for NaNoWriMo already!! πŸ™‚ … I must admit that I’m a little behind at the moment – I’m currently at around 18000 words, so I’ll be making some ground up over the weekend! πŸ™‚

  5. bobbi

    I’ve seen so many of my design stolen that I now take it as a compliment. I have worked as a ghost designer a long time, I have no more fears of having my work stolen as far as I am the first to develop the idea. More or less.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Bobbi – I think the way you take the stealing of your design ideas as a compliment is a great way of looking at things … otherwise things can become frustratingly unbearable! Perhaps that’s the best and only way such ‘borrowing’ of ideas should be interpreted … thanks for your thoughts! πŸ™‚

  6. katiecrackernuts

    I think designers are really brave putting concept work up online. Finished and sold work I can understand but, wow, putting unfinished work up seems to me to be asking for trouble unless you have such a definitive style it could only be traced back to you. Tough one. Fortunately I don’t have that dilemma, it’s just what you see is what you get over at my place. Nothing much in the way of creativity to steal.
    Ah yes, the year has flown by. And yes, you’re probably right longing for past simplicities is likely futile. : )

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Katie – I agree with you. I think it’s really brave for a designer to put concept work up online. I’d be too nervous to do that … I know I’m starting to get less open about sharing awesome writing ideas, so I can completely understand that fear.
      And my goodness, you undersell yourself – your delightful blog is full of original creativity … and I’m sure it works as a wonderful inspiration to many (not just to me).

      The year is absolutely flying by … I can’t believe it will soon be December and then that means that Christmas isn’t too far away … OH MY! πŸ˜‰
      I think when things get crazy hectic like they do at the end of each year, I start yearning for simpler times and a less complex life … but the reality is I probably wouldn’t have it any other way! πŸ˜‰

  7. Mel

    What an interesting and thought-provoking post! As far as my creative process goes, I tend to share most of my finished projects on my blog, and sometimes I’ll talk about an ‘in-progress’ idea, to invite input from blog readers; I do try to keep a certain amount back though. I guess you should only share what you’re comfortable with, but it can be easy to be feel more comfortable than is appropriate when you’re sharing online. I suppose you should always apply a bit of caution, and if in doubt, don’t? Tricky one! Thanks for getting me thinking πŸ™‚

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Mel – Thanks for your kind words about this post … I think that idea of how much to share creatively has been something I’ve been mulling over recently, so it only makes sense to canvas opinions. πŸ™‚
      I think the balance of sharing that you’ve struck – in sharing your finished projects and talking about in-progress works is a great one to aim for … and as you say, we should all just do what is comfortable – and that applies to pretty much everything in life, not just what we share on our blogs …

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts! πŸ˜€

  8. Gabrielle Bryden

    I don’t worry about actual writing and articles – I keep dated records of all posts and if someone borrowed my stuff I’d be right on to them. Ideas are a different matter and I would be less inclined to write about a good idea, as that is harder to prove. I’d be more concerned about visual art and design (if I did that sort of stuff) getting ripped off – and I’ve seen that happen on the net.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Gabrielle – I guess sometimes I get overly paranoid about ‘releasing’ written work into the wilds of the internet … you never quite know where it’ll end up. As you say though, as long as records are documented and properly kept, it would be easy to prove what is yours and what someone else has ‘taken’.

      I know what you mean about how difficult it must be for visual artists and designers to share their work (even when the item is only shared to sell) … like you I’ve seen many examples of work like that being plagiarised (thank goodness I’m a totally untalented visual artist!) πŸ˜‰

  9. Piper (DailyDivaDish)

    Such a good question Tracey. I’ve struggled with this question ever since I began blogging. In fact, I’ve had a site in India lifting every single one of my posts for the last year. Everything I write appears on their blog. So frustrating! And because they are in India – and so is their hosting…I’ve had little recourse. So yeah, it’s always in the back of my mind. I really admire the people who just put it out there and don’t worry about it, but I’m not one those people. Unfortunately I have no answers. I’m still figuring it out too. Best of luck to you in navigating this issue. Have a beautiful weekend!
    XO Piper

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Piper – I think that question of how much to share and how much ‘not to share’ on our blogs is a really tricky one … and it must be one that we all come to consider at one point or another. How frustrating for you that you’ve had an Indian site lifting all of your posts!! And it’s especially maddening that nothing can be done about it! GRRR!!!

      I also admire people that can put their work up on the web and not worry about it … I think I’m a worrier by nature, so if there’s something even remotely possible for me to worry about, then I’ll worry about it! πŸ˜‰
      I hope you enjoyed a lovely week, and thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! πŸ™‚

  10. Rellacafa

    Definitely a topic that I have pondered over the years. I mostly come down on the side of sharing my ideas, I figure if anyone was to ever plagiarise me for some reason, the original content is still there on my site for me to prove it’s mine…if, for some reason, I ever had to do that! Sometimes I think that people who never share their ideas simply don’t have that many, or are afraid to let go of a little piece of genius or inspiration, in case that little piece is all they have. There are some ideas that are worth treasuring and keeping to oneself, things that you might like to build on and develop, but there are also a lot of thoughts that we all have every day that it doesn’t hurt to share. I think the boundary is always a personal thing! xx

  11. Rellacafa

    I think I’m blind, I can’t ever find the subscribe to comments link on your blog! Help me out? πŸ˜€

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hiya Caf – Haha … I don’t actually have a ‘subscribe to comments’ link thingy … but hopefully you get notified when I eventually get around to responding to your comments! πŸ™‚

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