“Everything is a remix.” So “Don’t quote. Make it yours and say it yourself.”

Why did I quote the the title of this blog post?

Because :

  1. I didn’t come up with those exact phrases and it’d feel like I’m stealing if I didn’t quote it
  2. I was taught all throughout high school and college to cite my sources
  3. This feels like a controversial idea… I don’t know if I even fully agree with it… If I’m being honest with myself, by quoting, I can easily disavow the idea and say “it wasn’t mine, I was just quoting someone else!”

The irony of this is I just violated the lesson that I’m trying to learn.

Okay, here’s another example of this in practice:

Which sounds better to you?

“In his best-selling book on behavioral science, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel-prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman said, ‘Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking about it.’.”

… or just saying it:

“Whatever’s on your mind is not as important as it seems.”

sivers.org

The question that Sivers then asks is: Why don’t we just say the idea, instead of referencing and quoting it?

The reasons he provides really resonated with me, especially as I find myself writing more and more blog posts, and here is the order in which they resonate:

  1. It feels like stealing: It does! I didn’t come up with the idea… but I feel like at times I’ve thought something very similar… or maybe a tangentially related analogy…
  2. By quoting someone else, we can easily disavow the idea if attacked: So true. I’ve felt that while writing something “potentially contentious” directly quoting definitely provides a safety net: if someone disagrees I can say, “It’s not my idea! I’m quoting someone else!”
  3. School teaches us to reference: “Cite your sources” is the lesson hammered in to us from an early age. I’m not saying we should all plagiarize, but I think there a difference between citing to impress vs citing to avoid plagiarism. I think I can be more conscious of when I’m citing to impress and I should absolutely continue to cite to not plagiarize the work of others.

So I’m going to give this a try:

If I hear an idea, have considered it, and integrated it into my beliefs, it’s mine. I’ll say it succinctly in my own words, and stand behind it. Like adopting a child, I will take care of this idea and raise it as my own. If anyone wants to know the source, I’ll be happy to tell them.

I highly recommend this. Stop referencing. Stop quoting. Paraphrase. Internalize it. Make it yours. Tell me what you think, not what someone else thinks.

Let’s see how internalizing and succinctly saying ideas in my own words feels, no matter how strongly it feels like “I’m stealing”, “I’m making myself vulnerable”, or “I’m forgetting to reference”.

And again, the goal here is not to be copy, paste, and steal content.

The goal is to paraphrase, internalize, and make it yours.

And you know what? It might be okay because at the end of the day what’s similar about the below three things?

  • Bitcoin
  • Facebook
  • The American Constitution

They’re all “remixes.” They’re all combinations of “unoriginal” ideas. And if these three things can change the world with “unoriginal ideas” then we can all write about about “unoriginal ideas” like they’re “our own”. Why?

because everything is a remix

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