Mis-match

In defence of being a copycat…

I don’t play games.

That’s not a line taken from an online dating profile, or a late night Facebook status, by the way – it’s just me saying that when it comes to ‘gaming’, I don’t get it.

Timehop is as close to an on-phone game that I ever get. Used merely to remind one of the most mundane moments of life so far by some, to me Timehop is a daily puzzle in which I have to match up a seven year old tweet with the name of whichever boy it was aiming to impress at the time. The specificity of the target varies; often, my recollection is nothing more than ‘boy in seminar’.

The sophistication of said tweets would also vary – sometimes, it would be a well-researched but carefully nonchalant status referencing an ‘arty’ film that I’d never seen, and had no intention of ever seeing; other times, it was a little less subtle…

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I was at it even before social media was a thing.

Aged eight I heard my crush at the time mention that he thought that vets were ‘cool’; by the end of the week, my parents were both vets who, when they weren’t busy vetting, operated an RSPCA /St Tiggy-Winkle’s-esque animal sanctuary from the bottom of our garden, which consequently meant that there were a lot of cute (imaginary) baby animals at our house. He never took the bait, thankfully – I’m not sure what I would’ve done if he’d wanted to actually see them.

Aged fourteen, I decided to pretend that I was a very good skateboarder – a smart move as, in my experience, there is nothing the men like more than you, a woman, being better than them at something that they love.

Aged seventeen I fibbed and said that I could drive, which again was a particularly desperate move, and I’m not sure how I would’ve styled that out should the brief flirtation have ever have progressed into a relationship.

I could now go on to analyse why, it seems, that if I like people, I instantly hit them with a whopping great lie, but I’m going to swerve away from that and instead tell the heartwarming tale of how trying to impress boys eventually led me to discover that I am good at something and even led me tumbling into some sort of career.

I started writing to impress boys.

There’s no charming backstory of a little girl writing an impossibly perceptive novel in crayon, here.

I was very shy, practically mute, and would completely choke on all of the cool, funny stuff that I had carefully rehearsed in my head for weeks before seeing My Crush.

I was desperate to show boys that I was funny and smart and decided that I could be much more charming as a collection of words than I ever could hope to be as a real, live person (turns out that all it takes to be charming to men is to smell nice and ruffle your hair. That’s literally it).

I had never written anything ‘properly’ before; school, sure, English was easy, and yes, I had written reams and reams of stories about plain girls who popular boys found beautiful and all of the banal events that relationships like that tend to lead to (basically, I wrote Twilight), printed them off in the IT room after school and then proceeded to hide them in my room, ready to be found should anything particularly tragic happen to me (and therefore guaranteeing their success), but I had never written anything that expressed an opinion, or made a comment on The News – I didn’t know how to do that.

So, I copied people. Of course, true to my then-form, I copied the writers that boys seemed to enjoy reading; back then, this was Charlie Brooker and Russell Brand.

It worked. Not only did it grab the attention of boys, but it also got me into the habit of writing – even if I did borrow someone else’s voice to do it.

Once I’d conquered boys, I moved on to copying the writers that I liked. I think my next move might have been Grace Dent (not a move that I would advise anyone to make, even Grace Dent herself), then Caitlin Moran and then, finally, myself.

Actually, in the interest of full disclosure, there was probably a bit of Carrie Bradshaw thrown in there at some point, too.

Borrowing the voices and opinions of others enabled me to negotiate my own feelings and take patches of what I thought worked, and discard the bits that didn’t, so that I was left with a patchwork quilt of a hobby, and eventually career, that I loved, and it was done, for the most-part, by copying people; copying their style and sometimes, until I’d formulated my own, copying their opinions.

There’s a lot of trash-talk around the idea of ‘copying’ in the blogging community at the moment; sly tweets aimed at new bloggers who are becoming ‘carbon copies’ of those that are doing well. The whole thing reminds me of school, where to be accused of copying someone was guaranteed to see you burnt at the stake, your offending pencil case lobbed at you from a baying crowd halfway through.

I say – copy until your heart’s content. And confident.

Young people, often girls, are turning to blogging because it now seems like a much more realistic and attainable way to forge a path towards their dream job than two years of poorly paid internships. It’s not a shortcut, it’s just a different route.

Many of these writers haven’t written for anyone other than their teachers before and so, logically, they are scared of getting it wrong; the Internet can be an unforgivable place to fuck up on/in, and so they’re playing it safe, copying the actions of those that have made a success of it all – no one copies people who are shit, do they?

Basically, I’m encouraging all of us to do some copying.

I do it all the time; whether I’m feeling nervous about trying to style over-the-knee boots, or writing a particularly tricky sales letter – I look for someone who looks great in over-the-knee boots, or who writes great sales letters, copy what they do and then work forward from there.

If there is something that you feel uncertain about, or are scared of doing, then look at someone who is doing it well and unashamedly and unapologetically copy them.

Oh, and if someone copies you – shut up and hit ‘like’.

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