Someone took something from me without my permission. I worked hard on it. I owned it.
I feel violated. I feel small. I feel like running outside and screaming at the cruel and unfair world.
The evils of the internet took my words and passed them off as their own. It’s called plagiarism.
You see, I’m a nobody. I’m the face you see for one second in the stands at a baseball game on TV. I’m the person with the blinker on across the street at a light. I’m the back of the head in front of you at your kid’s school music show.
That’s me. Nobody. I live in the middle of the United States. I was raised here, actually. My job is to write magazine articles for a local Kansas City magazine. I love my job because I am proud of my hometown. I have a husband and two daughters. Sometimes I write about my family and my life on this blog.
I’m not the next big American author but I did land a small part in a book anthology coming out in May. I work hard to see my byline in print. I’m submit pieces to large publications to be seen by a larger audience. This is difficult for me because it takes a tremendous amount of confidence. Rejections are a requirement in this field. Everyone has their own opinion. Creativity cannot be proven.
I don’t have ads on this blog because the little money I would make is not worth your value to me as a reader. I like writing. I love it, really. I like figuring out which words to use when describing my nobody life.
I take what happens in my life and I write it so it’s simple and funny. It’s what I do. It’s also not easy.
For instance, Kate will not leave for school until I fix the seam in her sock. It needs to be placed on top of her foot before she puts a shoe on. Every day, she asks me to fix the bump. One morning I thought to myself, “I wonder how many people drop off their kids late to school because the kid refuses to leave with a bump in their sock. I should ask a teacher that.”
Boom. Make a meme. Post to Facebook.
It was my first meme. It got shared 32,000 times on Facebook. Beginners luck. There are a lot of kids with bumps in their socks.
When Emma comes home from school, she usually has math homework. We need to sit down with Emma every night to help her. She excels in writing but math infuriates her. I was the same way in school. I argued with my parents and teachers that I would never work with numbers in my adult life and if I did, I would use a calculator. Now I find myself pulling my hair out at the dinner table, trying to remember how to do long division.
Boom. Make a meme. Post to Facebook.
It got shared 17,500 times and reached over 2.5 million people.
I still can’t figure out how to say I’m walking out the pediatrician’s office with my kid dying of “just a virus.” The remedy is lots of fluids, rest, a bill and no antibiotic. It’s like losing the lottery.
I’ll let you know when I figure out how to word that in a funny, simple way. Try it. It’s hard.
I’m not trying to prove to you that everything I write is hilarious and shared with others. Rejection is always there and I’m a nobody, remember?
When a nobody finds success in writing and people want to share that writing with others, it’s uplifting. That is how a writer finds their way through the Internet clutter. I am not paid to write memes. Memes allow a nobody to become a somebody. Me, Julie Burton – the woman you stopped for in the Target parking lot, standing on the cart and riding back to her car – can make you laugh.
Then the private messages come in. Screenshots show up on my phone. Friends text me – didn’t you write this?
The evils of the Internet show my exact words on another template with a popular blogger’s name under it. Or my words but my name is cut off at the bottom. It only takes one person to alter it. It’s found without credit, a larger publication sees it, and shares it.
And then I become a nobody again.
Most large publications and bloggers are quick to credit my name once I notify them I am the author. Most people know how to share with the correct source. The “share” button on Facebook or the “retweet” button on Twitter make it easy. And I love that. Share away. Friend me. Follow me. Play with my hair. Build my confidence.
If someone makes you laugh, makes you cry, or makes you think, the highest compliment you can give them is sharing their work. It’s an art. No one knows what we’re doing other than trying to make you feel something.
But when someone distorts the image or re-writes an image with their own name – that is plagiarizing. It’s stealing. It’s illegal.
I just have to find a way to break away to be a somebody without getting robbed.