All creative work starts with category
One of the first issue my unit and I question our first-time author purchasers is this: “What kind of book is it? ”
Rarely do they know the answer. They’ll say something like “a good one” or “one that will help everybody.”
But that doesn’t work. Readers don’t want to be one of many any more than authors do. We all want to be unique. We want to feel special. And we are. But all specialness begins with belonging: columnists must first step into a space, some list or genre to which we would like to belong.
The reassuring news for inventors is that truly spurring prowes doesn’t stay in whatever category it begins. To restate a quote attributed to Picasso, “Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.” This is how you stand out, how you create a perennial seller, how you launch a sincere blockbuster.
Why is this the case?
If you are competing with a person who has previously owns an idea in the marketplace, trying to beat them won’t work. Al Ries calls this The Law of the First in his book The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.
The idea here is that if “youre ever” first in your category, you acquire. And if you can’t be first, you have to change the category. When a label is first to market a make, it owns the category. For example, we announce most facial tissue “Kleenex, ” even if it’s a carton of Puffs. We do the same thing with Q-tips. These are not commodities; they are brand names. But because those symbols were first to busines, they now own the category.
This is true in your infinite as well. Who was first? They likely own the lion’s share of the attention, and it’s going to be very difficult to shift the focus from them onto you. Don’t try. It’s a squander of energy. Rather, find a brand-new list in which you can be first.
For example, who was the second person to fly a nonstop transatlantic flight from the US to Europe? If you ask a group of parties, a good number of them will know it was Charles Lindbergh. But the second? No one ever recollects second place. Why would you?
We actually do know who the second person was, and here’s where things get interesting. It was Amelia Earhart, who is arguably more famous than Charles Lindbergh.
But Amelia Earhart is not known as the second largest person to fly across the Atlantic in an airplane without stopping. She’s known as the first woman.
That’s what changing the two categories is all about
You and I once own different categories announced “our work” that nobody else can compete with. Last week, we called this your mixtape. The problem occurs when we fixate on other people’s categories, areas in which other people or organizations have already arrived in the first-place spot. We are never going to beat them. What we need to do is find a brand-new list that we can dominate.
One way to do this is to take two categories that are quite different and blend them. Apple does this, creating well-engineered concoctions that were also beautifully designed. You can do the same by acquire two conducting symbols or groups of beings in your industry, asking yourself what single thing they do well, and then combining those two things into something new and useful.
Hamlet, but with lions
This is true in literature and artwork as well. The same fibs preserve getting reiterated over and over again, only with brand-new slants. Did you know that The Lion King roughly didn’t get greenlit for creation because the executives were skeptical? No one got it, and it wasn’t approved until person in the join said, “Wait, this is like Hamlet, but with lions.”
Hamlet. As in that four-hundred-year-old play by Shakespeare that has proven its relevance over and over again to new audiences. We know Hamlet runs. But to really do another Hamlet is not interesting. It’s expected. Adding lions to the mix acquires it unique, doesn’t it?
My challenge to you this week is to go forth and categorize yourself. Find out where you belong, get really clear on the boundaries of your space, and then get ready for next week…cause we’re about to blow the whole thing wide open. Scattergories, indeed.
Genre is disappearing. What comes next ?( The New Yorker)
7 of the best bibles in the meta genre of writing about writing.
Why have some of music’s greatest artists( Bob Marley, Diana Ross, Jimi Hendrix) never earned a Grammy? They don’t fit into ANY of the (8 3 !) lists .
Use your Enneagram type to become a prolific creator .( This artist did it, and Sleeping At Last initiated a whole album of Enneagram psalms .)
I write about several different topics, wandering from finance to duration the managers and personal blogging about “peoples lives”. But I likewise write story. I want to include all these interests( and more !), but I don’t know if that’s too much. Do I stick with one niche/ category? I don’t feel like I is a matter for any specific group at all! Am I a good fit for a personal brand? — Sarah
No. But that’s because personal firebrands aren’t a good fit for anyone. Or rather, what that wants is shifting.
It used to be that if you had a blog and a pulse, you could build a following around your online name. We called this a personal brand, but often what it did was capture “the authors ” in a very specific niche that didn’t leave much chamber for growth.
Instead of trying to fit into a personal brand, I recommend beginning with a worldview. What do you notice that’s wrong with the world that you want to fix? What unique view do you have that’s worth sharing? Start with a single topic–some area you want to start in that leaves office for growth.
Once you know where you’re starting, find a convention–some power everyone follows in your industry–and break it. Challenge it. Downright contradict when appropriate. Pick a fight, and give everyone see you do it.
Maybe this looks like you contradicting a passing articulate in your discipline. Maybe it symbolizes compounding two categories in a new way. People don’t talk about good meanings; they talk about interesting theories. Find a acces to be interesting, which( as you remember from above) ever begins with firstly fitting in.
Tl ;d r–start with a single topic, pick a fight with something you think is BS, and challenge it in a manner that was that represents your worldview. The formula I like to use is this 😛 TAGEND
Everyone fantasizes X, but what’s actually genuine is Y.
For example, let’s say you pick personal finance. You could say something like, “Everyone anticipates a plan is necessary, but what’s actually true is plans reinforce a privation mindset.” Don’t be afraid to be provocative; in fact, you often need to be racy to get attention these days.
Keep me posted. — Jeff
Coming soon, the Hey, Creator! podcast. Every Tuesday, we’ll riff on this week’s newsletter and talk more about what it’s like to construct interesting arts and live an interesting life. Check out the trailer here.
Chantel, who is a 9, and has thus previously tested as every other number depending on her attitude and categorically insists that she can’t be categorized.
Sandy, who is a 1 and ever does things the right way. On time. No exceptions–including migrating our part online community from Facebook to Circle this week. Come hang out with your fellow designers here !
Matt, who is a 3, which is exactly why his hair( and this newsletter) always ogle so good.
Will, who is part 3 and division 6, which signifies he is loyal to nothing except going this issue out the door on time.
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