What’s the difference between Twin Spirits & Imitators?
Has the universe gifted you a kindred spirit(s) or cursed you with a copycat(s) or both?
When something a little too familiar scrolls into view, when does your inner side eye activate? What signs are red flags of plagiarism vs omens that your next bff just stepped into your life?
The fine line between imitator and twin spirit can cause us to mistake one for the other or be altogether unsure of a doppelgänger’s intent.
To set some language for the convo:
Let’s say a twin spirit is someone who shares similar core of aesthetics, dreams, or psyche. As opposed to someone who you grew up with and share a lot of similar memories & references, a twin spirit is likely to be someone you connected with who did not have the same upbringing, but feels similar to you on a deeper psychic or spiritual layer. Similarities are likely to manifest in creative work, interests, dreams & aesthetics.
The shadow reflection of the twin spirit is the copycat, who seems to be either mirroring your moves by doing a watered down version or casting you as a non-consenting muse, watching for cues to appropriate your essence into their work.
The difference seems straightforward, but things muddy the water:
For example, if you’re operating from deep in your ego, you’re unlikely to recognize a twin spirit. If your ego is grasping for territory or credit, it’s going to alienate you, as everyone who does something remotely similar will be seen as competition... Its kinda the difference between thinking based on scarcity or abundance. The irony is that ego, in trying to elevate you, can blindfold you from identifying the people who could strengthen your work and expand your opportunities... The power of the friend circle.
Friend circles in creative fields are a web of twin spirits that are an essential way to learn, expand, & create allies in a genuine way. Thanks to reality tv (Oh hey, Survivor) it’s well
known that situating yourself in a group of allies is a main way to get ahead, so this is where the line continues to blur: Some people who appear to be kindred spirits are actually imitators trying to get ahead with a successful formula. Frequently, people who appropriate others’ creative work will go to great lengths to befriend them in order to establish themselves as peers.
Your creative work is probably a natural expression that evolved over time, with the building of experience and aesthetic, & possibly with the honing of tools and methods-- but to an
imitator, its a formula to crack, like a thief to a lock (which is why many craftspeople don’t answer questions about ‘where you get your materials?’ or ‘how do you do that thing when you…’ but that’s another topic, for another post...).
So, how do you discern genuine similarity from knock-off in your own work? in someone else’s work?
In other’s work:
-Time & intuition are two combs that untangle the confusion.
-A little research into the techniques or the background of the creator in question may help. Social media offers a potential paper trail for seeing the evolution of ideas but it may not help
in all cases.
-Keep in mind: most imitations seem to be the result of unconscious copying from admiration, not maliciously plotted out.
-Creative friendships based on the false premise of copying & advancing a career or profile will reveal itself with time. (More tips on this in Craft & Practice)
In your work:
-Be intentional and self reflective about your use of social media and internet consumption.
-Dig deeper than other artists’ work when seeking inspiration for your work.
-Be mindful and intentional with the things in your medium that you consume. Some artists choose to limit their consumption of peers’ work in their medium. Some writers only read
their past influences, some musicians only listen to music in other genres, etc-- and many artists avoid the white noise of TV/radio. Some artists only limit the consumption of art when they are working on a big project. Play with these ideas to find whatever balance works for you.
Two tools help to both ward off imitators & guard you from becoming an unconscious imitator:
1. Muses: A strong connection to your creative muses (note: in this context, muses are not people, see Craft & Practice for details) will protect you from becoming an unconscious
imitator. They will also keep you confident in the event an imitator plagiarizes you. You have an endless well of ideas to tap (which is not to say you shouldn’t confront a copier, just to say, people can steal elements but they can’t steal your essence). Check out the Castles in the Clouds card in the Secret Dakini Oracle deck as a guide for meditating and using self guided visualizations to explore creative ideas with your muses (more on this in another post.. and in the Craft & Practice ‘zine)
2: Boundaries: Having healthy boundaries will help you to fend off vampires, mimes, & impersonators who parrot your essence... and when they pop up, boundaries is the tool you need to address them and/or stay grounded in your practice, depending on what the situation calls for. Lots more on boundaries and meditations you can do to strengthen them in Craft & Practice.
Let’s continue this thought wave in a couple weeks, any other divergences or subtopics you want to explore on this?
more tho ------>
& Now, a long winded little anecdote on friend circles:
A year or two ago, friend of mine asked spontaneously if I wanted to go with her to a group discussion about creativity that looked interesting. We sat in EM Wolfman Bookstore in
Oakland in a small group of 5 or 6, & @JenniferChristineWilliams passed out copies of “The Process of Letting Yourself Have a Creative Process”. Its a beautiful ‘zine for doing reflective
work on these topics. It consists of open-ended questions inviting you to reflect and write in it like a journal. I was so impressed by the therapeutic feel of Jennifer’s work, her presence, & the way she facilitated the conversation.
Meanwhile, I had been connected to @MarleeGrace’s work through Instagram for a few years, & I admired the gentle, plaintive, poetic way she reveals thoughts & feelings from afar. Marlee & I met up after she moved to Oakland for a spell and had a couple great conversations (one is documented on her podcast). I separately invited Marlee & Jennifer to come by once & was surprised when they arrived together-- they were already friends/housemates.
Flash-forward a year later, the discussions I was having with creative pals about plagiarism, ethical issues, boundaries, & confronting imitators seemed to be on-going, frustrated, and private. I decided to write some posts online to open the discussion publicly. After a few posts, I got several requests to share the info in ‘zine form. Around this time, Marlee released her ’zine, ’how a photo and video-sharing social networking service gave me my best friends,
true love, a beautiful career, and made me want to die’, and I was floored that someone else was also thinking and writing on similar topics of boundaries and social media and creativity..... --->
Now fast-forward months down the road.... Marlee had opened @CenterCenter.Space & asked to stock some copies of Craft & Practice & participate in a reading she was doing at
@PointReyesBooks to celebrate her new print book “How to Not Always Be Working: A Toolkit for Creativity & Radical Self Care”. Both our works, written around the same time, are not only on similar topics but umm... the pic she sent is attached-- our books were birthed the same pale pink shade. How, Sway?! A) The collective unconscious... B) that twin spirit magic ... C) shared muses... or maybe D) All of the above
A few weeks ago, I was going through my ‘zine shelf & thumbed through my “The Process of Letting Yourself Have a Creative Process” out of curiosity to see what I wrote a year ago. I was taken aback to see that the prompts Jennifer had created about topics like Boundaries, Inspiration, and Capitalism & the responses I wrote on those topics a year earlier were basically the same backbone for Craft & Practice. Jennifer’s work was certainly an unconscious influence on mine. I couldn't remember if I added her ‘zine to the back page of mine-- I hadn’t & revised the edition to add her credit as a resource.
We naturally circle around similar subjects & aesthetic choices with friends-- and are certainly influenced by them-- and that is a strength, amplifying the feels and messages we explore, creating a more understanding and receptive audience to our individual work. Two of the most important aspects of forming a creative friend circle is that 1) we recognize the overlap of our work as kindred spirit work instead of competition 2) that we open our
opportunities to friends, invite, collaborate, share credit & resources with our friend circle.