I'm fairly new to this blog writing game. It was something I looked to after some recent advice from various friends when I found myself wanting to amp up my employability, and add a few more strings to my sadly lacking bow. I liked the idea of getting myself Out There, wherever that was, and flexing a writing muscle that had been inactive for a pretty long time. So I got down to business and set one up on Wordpress.
I wrote a couple of pieces to have something ready to go when I set up the page. I am a person tragically riddled with insecurities and, as entertaining as I find putting my rants to paper, I am terrified that someone will turn around and tell me I've created something bad/boring/ill-informed/bad (again) as soon as it's made public. So, with a couple of rambling pieces under my belt and a review in the pipeline, I held my breath and set the blog free, wishing it well and privately fighting the urge to check the reader stats every hour for the next week. It all seemed to be going relatively well so I kept on my merry way, posted my review, wrote another post about an event I went to, gained some more readers and followers, got my blog tweet retweeted -- all very exciting stuff.
When I set it up I of course chose one of the various free design formats because, hey, I'm cheapskate. Plus, the blog could have been a failure -- all the more embarrassing if it actually cost me money. I was, however, pretty chuffed with the layout and images I'd chosen. I loved my header photograph, and was altogether having an unusual amount of fun -- especially in the eyes of my far savvier friends who had all started doing this several years ago. One of my closest friends was a keen supporter of my new blog, as she had started something similar a short while before me after advice from a professional mentor. We work in a similar industry, and are both acutely aware of how hard it can be to work your way up the ladder without doing everything you can to make yourself more professionally attractive. Although I truly hate this sentiment, I totally understand that the market is incredibly competitive and demanding at the moment, so am happy to play ball for now. Her blog was naturally about a similar subject matter, but I was attempting to keep mine a little looser so that I could still write about anything I wanted, just with a few specific perimeters.
I liked my friend's blog. She was zooming ahead and sounded very knowledgeable and informative, and I was sure her mentor would be proud. The format she'd chosen was a little...dull. No fault of her own at all as she was just as new to blogging as I was, and her material was carrying the page anyway, which is what really matters, right?
A couple of weeks ago she told me that she'd written a new post so I eagerly took a look, and lo and behold she had changed the format. It looked exactly like mine. Exactly the same. Right down to the header image! I mean, it wasn't the photo that I had taken, it was her stuff in the picture, but it was laid out exactly the same, so that if you were to flick from my blog to hers it would take you a minute to realise that they were actually created by different people. I was astonished. How long did she think she could get away with this one for? She had also written a review, and even replicated the opening sentence of the review on my blog -- I mean, there's the appreciation of a friend's work and then there's The Talented Mr Ripley. She had become the Matt Damon to my Jude Law. Seriously, I'm never getting in a boat with her.
I did what any reasonable, overreactive person would do in this situation: I called her a sod (12 times) in a text to my boyfriend, moaned about it to my colleague, and with a resigned sigh changed the format of my own blog. I was once again facing the agonising decision of which format to choose, each with an increasingly ludicrous name that shouldn't, but did, influence my choice. I am still baffled as to why some formats cost £60 and some are free, since so many of them look identical, and in the end chose one called 'Adele' (one of the formats I previously avoided because of any possible nominal connotations...). Despite this, I'm happy with Adele, I feel she'll serve me well, and I actually prefer my current blog to the one I had before. C'est la vie.
I did hint at the situation to my friend without much luck -- she maintained ignorance and got a little defensive, so I laid it to rest. I have no idea why she did it, except for possibly feeling a bit lost with her own blog and needing a hand with its décor, and not wanting to admit it. She has always felt that we are very similar -- something I internally contest -- and holds quite a lot of faith in our united front, and I can only assume that this may have also had something to do with it. I love her dearly, but the thing about female friendships is, they're complicated. I don't want to generalise too broadly, but in my experience they have been far more complex and harder to navigate than the friendships I have had with men, and this can be both a blessing and a curse. My friendships with women have run far deeper, which inevitably means that there's more to lose. So as much as I wanted to have it out with her, I wasn't going to let some strange, misguided admiration cause an argument. It all felt so petty in the end that, small scale plagiarism aside, sucking it up and moving on was the best policy. She can have this one.
Margot Malcontent is a first-time blogger, dragonslayer, International Woman of Mystery, and intolerant and pedantic friend.
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Image Credit: Paramount Pictures