016 Steal This Episode

Don’t feel guilty. It’s okay to steal ideas from other writers. In fact, it’s essential. As long as you do this one thing …

As a writer you should be swiping ideas nonstop. Stealing ideas nonstop.

William S. Burroughs said, “All writing is in fact cut-ups. A collage of words read, heard, overheard.”

Your content is going to be made up of all the resources you absorb. So it’s essential you research wide, and effortlessly capture those ideas.

But you don’t stop there.

In this roughly 8-minute episode you’ll discover:

  • A long list of resources you should pillage
  • 3 disruptive ways to boost creativity by author Daniel Pink
  • Where I swiped the idea for my best opening ever
  • 4 free and simple ways to capture ideas
  • The one thing you must do when you borrow ideas (otherwise you look like a thief)
  • The perfect metaphor for the essential mindset of exceptionally creative people

The Show Notes

Steal This Episode

Demian Farnworth: Hi, welcome to Rough Draft, your daily dose of essential web writing advice. I’m your host, Demian Farnworth, Chief Content Writer for Copyblogger Media.

And thank you for sharing the next few minutes of your life with me.

I’m getting smarter, aren’t I? Yeah, yeah.

Episode 16 is called “Writers Swipe Ideas Non-Stop.”

Swipe. To steal.

A Long List of Resources You Should Pillage

Any Dora the Explorer fans out there? Anyone? Oh. Yeah. You. So. Let me ask you a question. Weren’t you always amazed that Swiper — who was Dora’s villain — always stopped stealing when the gang chanted “Swiper, stop swiping!”

If only it was that easy.

As a writer you should be swiping ideas nonstop. Stealing ideas nonstop.

William S. Burroughs said, “All writing is in fact cut-ups. A collage of words read heard overheard.”

French-Swiss film director and screenwriter Jean-Luc Godard said, “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”

That is the essential mindset for an exceptional web writer. Your life should be one about observation. Your senses always on.

You should be like a renegade sinkhole, swallowing the world around you.

You should be running your hands over the texture of a strange wall. You should cock your ear to a heated conversation between two German chess players. You should be chewing your arugula and feta slowly, thinking about how and why they work so well together.

This also means you should go on a Netflix TV show binge. Go back and watch the Sopranos. Twin Peaks. Breaking Bad.

Watch ten of the best anti-war movies. Ten of the best pro-war movies.

You should attend live lectures, take a daily dose of TEDTalks, listen to podcasts about strange subjects.

You should subscribe to a free college course at Yale or MIT or Princeton through iTunes, buy a few Great Courses, and watch documentaries.

Whatever your heart desires. And especially what your heart doesn’t desire.

3 Disruptive Ways to Boost Creativity By Author Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink, in his book “To Sell Is Human” says you should try to rupture the routine. Shake off the staleness. Try a jolt of the unfamiliar.

There are three ways to do this. A mini-jolt. A half-jolt. A full jolt.

A mini-jolt is taking a different route home from work. A half-jolt would be a day immersed in a foreign environment. If you’re a lawyer, spend the day as a carpenter. Full jolt? Travel to another country, another culture.

Where I Swiped the Idea for My Best Opening

Over four years ago I watched a documentary called It Might Get Loud. There is a scene in which Jack White is talking to the younger Jack White. He tells him,

I totally knew I needed to use that. Somewhere. Somehow. So I tucked it away, until two years later, when it fit perfectly with the opening of an article called …

“How to Become an Exceptional Writer”

In two episodes from now I’ll tell you more about that article … but not in the next episode because I’ve got a little surprise for you. Something from left field.

Way left field. But something to maybe lift your spirits. Especially if you are still reeling from that doomsday episode about how people read online.

4 Free and Simple Ways to Capture Ideas

In the meantime, if you want to keep your job, you got to swipe some ideas. Swipe ideas for the perfect headline, opening, the metaphor, or the conclusion.

How do you keep track of these ideas you steal?

  1. Create a physical swipe file. A school folder. Whenever you find an ad or article in a print magazine, you copy it or tear it out and stuff it in the swipe file.
  2. Create a digital swipe file. I use a combination of tools like Evernote and Readability. When I’m reading online I can select a paragraph and save it to Evernote. Entire articles get saved in Readability.
  3. Carry around a small notebook.
  4. Use your voice memo on your phone.
  5. Whatever it is. Be creative. Absorb the world around you. Observe. And remember: you are a renegade sinkhole.

Speaking of sinkholes, you know where a good place to steal ideas would be? It would be at our Authority Rainmaker conference this May 13-15, where a star-studded cast of speakers will be bringing you some of the best ideas on content marketing, driving traffic, smart design … and how to just generally subdue the web and take names.

Ideas from people like the SEO veteran, Danny Sullivan, co-founder and CTO of ion interactive Scott Brinker, Porch’s VP of Marketing Joanna Lorde, author and the world’s first Chief Content Officer, Ann Handley.

Don’t forget Henry Rollins, Dan Pink, Chris Brogan and a cast of Copyblogger hot shots. All in one room. For three days. At the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.

And you’ve got a chance to chum with them. Dine with them.

You don’t want to miss it. But you can only do that if you register at rainmaker.fm/event. That’s rainmaker.fm/event.

Until next time. Take care.