Don’t Write to Fit In
A month ago I bought a new pair of shoes for work.
They fit fine. But I was trying to save a few bucks so I went for the cheap pair. They looked fine. They fit. So I wore them faithfully day after day.
Soon I discovered there was a problem.
My feet sweated like faucets when I wore them.
Gross, I know.
The crazy thing is this happened no matter how cold it was outside.
Last weekend I bought a new pair. I tried them on. I’ve worn them for a week. My feet aren’t begging for relief at the end of a hard day. I’m not sweating buckets even if it’s hot (it’s not right now). These shoes are as different from the previous pair that comparing them is like putting light next to darkness.
It’s great when things fit.
When does fitting in matter?
If you want your work to appear in a publication, you better follow the rules. There’s freedom where nothing is specified, but if you violate an expressed wish, you close the door to that opportunity.
Rules are like job interviews. They screen you first with your resume. If you meet the specs, they’ll call you in to see if they’ll like having you around. Pass that test and you’re in.
If you want to reach a busy editor, give her what she’s looking for. Better, show her you’ll make her publication look great. You do that by appealing to her interests.
Nobody cares about yours.
I know, you do. We all do. We all care about ourselves. Remember that and you can align your desires with other people’s and do great things.
When it doesn’t make sense to fit in.
You can’t walk into a shoe store and expect every pair to fit.
At best, you can wear everything in your size range.
How does this apply to writing?
Just because your hero wears a size twelve Nike Air doesn’t mean you should. If you’re a ten and would rather wear Converses, put them on with pride.
You’ll never be comfortable in someone else’s shoes.
When you write, don’t regurgitate what’s popular. Don’t chase trends like dogs chase cars. Do what lights your fire, and do it with passion. The people who care will love you for it.
What does it mean to regurgitate something? You know the first thing that comes to mind. Birds do that to feed their kids. When it comes to writing, regurgitating is repeating without comprehension or analysis. It’s like when students cut and paste fragments from the internet and call it an original essay.
That’s a one way ticket to failure.
We want the real you.
If you’re going to take the time to write anyway, why not be yourself?
We want to know what you think. Did you test the latest marketing technique? How did it work? Was it fun? Did you learn something? Would you do it again?
Don’t be afraid to share your flaws and weaknesses. We know you’re not perfect because we aren’t. If you win, it’s because you did something effective. Nobody bats 1000 all the time. We want to know you’re human. So don’t pretend you’re not.
You’ll always have critics when you’re making a difference. Just like every shoe in the store doesn’t fit you, your writing won’t light everyone’s fire.
What’s not okay is for you to settle for being average.
Be audaciously you instead. Get excited about something. Write that down and share it. Don’t check everything for effectiveness first. The water is fine and the only way to make a splash is to throw yourself in.
You can even go barefoot if you want.