When the article appeared on my newsfeed I laughed and clicked on it right away. It was almost the exact same article I had written months before. I told myself not to worry about it. In the world of mommy blogging it’s quite common to see the same ideas, themes, and topics repeated so I wasn’t completely surprised.
When the idea for my article popped in my head several months before I thought I finally found a topic that nobody had covered in the same way. I even googled my idea to make sure there were no other similar articles floating around the internet. I found one that was close to my idea but the way it was written differed so much from my concept that I decided to go ahead and write the article.
My first assumption when I saw the article on my newsfeed that closely resembled mine was that the author had copied my idea. This is what our egos tell us. If we come up with what we believe to be a unique idea and then later it pops up again, there is only so much room for coincidences. When I read the article it even used the same format that I used to make my point. From the beginning introduction to the conclusion almost everything was the same. The only differences were the examples we both used to prove our point.
I sent the article to my husband and asked him if it looked familiar. I needed a second opinion before I officially jumped to conclusions. We both agreed it was basically the same as mine. I genuinely believed that this was not a coincidence until I found the date the article was published. The article was reposted to Facebook several months after mine was published, but it had actually first been published a month before my article.
Once I saw that I was forced to shift my perspective. I was so quick to assume that the writer had copied my seemingly unique idea, but when faced with the reality that it was published before mine I began to fully understand something about the work of writers, specifically writers who write about motherhood.
I knew that I hadn’t copied the other writers’ work because of the effort I took to make sure there were no other articles like mine before I wrote it. In this case google failed me, but I know that had I seen the other article before I wrote mine I would not have written it. That’s just the type of person I am. The idea of plagiarism was drilled into me during my high school years. Even in the world of freelance writing and free ideas, I struggle with making sure I don’t even accidentally steal someone else’s ideas.
I believe this experience showed me something about the human experience and the experience of mothers. The fact that two people who don’t know each other could have the same exact idea and relate to it in the exact same way shows me that our experiences are not as unique as we believe they are. This is not to say that they aren’t special or important. It just means that we as humans and mothers and people experience many of the same emotions and relate to the world in similar ways.
This idea that there is a universal human experience is what drew me to writing in the first place. I felt so isolated after my daughter was born and it wasn’t until she was born that I felt the pull to start writing and sharing my stories. I didn’t have many friends who were mothers at the time, and I needed to find a way to connect to the universal experience of motherhood. I needed to know I wasn’t alone in my thoughts. I found great comfort in reading the stories of other mothers during that time, and I was eager to add my voice to the stories.
I believe in the power of storytelling, which is why I have been drawn to writers like Cheryl Strayed, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Glennon Doyle. I love the fact that I can read about Cheryl Strayed hiking the Pacific Crest Trail alone, a feat both my husband and I agree I would never do, and connect to her experience of trying to find a way to grieve her mother’s death and find her way in the world. I have never done heroin or had an abortion, but I could see myself in Cheryl. The pain she wrote about in her book Wild was a pain I could connect to even though the circumstances that lead me to my own pain were quite different on the surface.
It’s that connection that motivates me to write and I hope that when people read my stories they can see themselves in my stories too.
Instead of being mad that someone essentially wrote the same exact article as me before I did, I’m actually glad because it means that the things I’m experiencing as a mom are universal. It means that there is a shared and connected experience of motherhood that survives my ego and my views of the world. It shows me that I’m a little less alone, which brings me full circle to why I began writing in the first place.