Oh God, there goes my idea!

One of the single most terrifying aspects of being an entrepreneur is suddenly learning that someone out there has gotten the same idea and either beaten you to the punch or you’re walking the red carpet at the same time wearing the same Prada dress.

I can’t speak for any of you out there, but that idea just about paralyzed me for a while.

And I’ve seen it happen to several other people.  During my cushy day job days, I took a trip down to the adult learning complex in Houston, TX and signed up for an entrepreneur’s class.  We’d be chatting along, asking each other if we had an idea for a business.  I’d pop out with a non desperate version of “I’m a freelance writer- hire me or my cats will starve to death!”

Within minutes, someone would say something along the lines of “I’ve got an idea, but I don’t want to say it out loud in case someone steals my idea.”

I’ve also noticed this fear of copyright/ idea/ plot/ life purpose theft amongst other creative types. If I had a penny for every fiction writer who refused to tell their plot idea for fear of the idea thief coming along, I’d never have to work again.

As a creative type, I can totally understand that fear, even though I’m willing to admit that it’s a little irrational.  I mean, having our brain child stolen from me, sounds like the ultimate invation.

  • Someone looked into the most intimate reaches of your brain, rifled around and stole something that expresses something of deep value to you.
  • You’ve worked your butt off for hours, days, weeks, months, even years, and someone went along and stole credit for your ideas.  And what are the chances (you think) of your getting a single penny for your effort?
  • Your deepest thoughts are exposed for evaluation from the world, by someone who had no right to them, and decided on their terms to expose them to a harsh and unfeeling world.
  • Unless we’re attorneys, few of us know the ins and outs of copyright law, and we’ve got an instinctual feeling that we’ve had our copyright violated.

So, you can see that these fears are a lot more than just crazy talk.  They come from the core of who we are, and they really get to our sense of identity and ownership of our own ideas.  And our own butt busting work.


Just as terrifying is the idea that you may inadvertently stealing from another creative person.

And just as with the idea of being stolen from, the idea of stealing from another person is more than simply being neurotic. 

  • Hey, nobody wants to be, or to be perceived to be, a second rate version of someone else.
  • I consider myself a very ethical person, so even the hint of doing something unprofessional would really upset me.
  • In a previous life, I worked on some inde films, and I totally bought into the idea that there’s room enough for everybody to be successful, and that you always ALWAYS do things that respect your fellow artists.  That’s the code, bro.  Don’t break it or karma will get you.
  • Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of copyright.  And if you’re like me and years later you still don’t completely understand it, it will probably freak you out a bit from time to time.

Today Shona Smith blogged about the moment she realized that her idea for a blog came dangerously close to another blog.  And I could totally relate to her, because I’ve had that moment as well.

About a month ago, I’d spent as much time as I possibly could searching out blogs about the creative and mental aspects of becoming an entrepreneur.  I was approaching it from the “full time employee seeks fulfilling life as entrepreneur, and as creative types, that brings all types of obstacles.”

And just before I was going to launch this blog that spoke to who I was and who I want to be for the rest of my life, I found another blog that said the same thing.  Only they’d said it longer, and they had some damned nice animated videos to go along with that they said.

I have no shame in admitting that I flipped out.  Totally had a meltdown and started freaking out from my toenails to my hairline. The blogging world really is a small one, and it is totally about relationships.  I had no intention of ever doing anything that would ruin a relationship, or make me look like an intellectual thief.

Eventually, I got out of the fetal position, and followed the advice that even if our niches were similar, we had very distinct voices.  I eventually got the nerve up to post a comment on the blog.  And long story short, he gave me a shout out on his Facebook page.

And here I want to mention that blog, Lateral Action. For those of you who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs, I can’t recommend Mark Mc Ginness’s blog highly enough.  Stop by and sign up for his e-mail newsletter.  I promise you it’s worth it.  In addition to knowing his stuff, he’s a very generous soul.

And if you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing.

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  1. I admire ANYBODY who has the courage to become an entrepreneur. I think it’s some kind of trait that you’re born with – you either want to, or you don’t. And I wish you every single ounce of luck because you’re so brave! #commenthour

  2. Your post immediately brought to mind the movie ‘The Social Network’. When the Winklevoss twins sued, and won their lawsuit against Zuckerberg, it set a precedent that has us walking on egg shells. Most people are ethical and wouldn’t intentionally ‘steal’ an idea. As long as I’m coming from an honest place I sense that I could correct any blunder I may make in life . . . and I’ve made plenty!

    Great post. Great blog. Thanks!

    • I can barely keep up with the Winkelvoss twins. One day they’re dropping a case, the next keeping one going.

      Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

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