You know the saying "think outside the box?"
This is the same, only I'm telling you to think outside your industry.
Thing is, every time I hear someone gossiping about someone else or see people try to copy "successful strategies" that are superficial at best, I get a little bit angry with my industry. I love my industry and yet, I find it a bit overbearing at times.
But it's not my industry's fault that I give it so much of my time and energy!
If I think back to every industry I've ever been in - fiction, photography, startups, marketing - I've always found annoying things. You too? This doesn't mean we're haters or that someone's going to jump out and expose us. It just means that we have a unique opportunity to transcend the things we don't like in our respective industries.
It's kind of like this cartoon by Steph Halligan:
Steph meant it as a reminder that we needn't always be "sparkly and sunshiny" 24/7, but I see it apply to inspiration, too. I've been in a bit of a rut lately and it's a direct result from consuming too much content from my own industry. Instead of feeding my creativity with my own inspired ideas, I've been letting other people's ideas feed it.
Which is why we must never let consumption trump creation.
Most of the time it's not even intentional or conscious. It just is. And the only way to protect yourself from external influences is to get back on top and be the happy cloud that gets to create, not consume and regurgitate.
Let's get back to the happy side of the rainbow. :)
You know, I've always been the networker type. I always joined communities and worked with as many fellow online ninjas as I could, and I was proud of that fact. Until one day I wasn't the type. Until one day I felt the desire to distance myself.
At first it didn't make sense! I felt like some kind of anti-social version of myself. Except I still loved talking to my clients and meeting fellow creative rebels.
It soon became apparent that I had entered a very fixed industry. An industry of "girlbosses" where the heroes are the ones who make $100K from webinars. Now, I'm not saying that's a bad thing or that every girlboss out there is the same, but you have to admit that there's a bit of dissonance between the book #GIRLBOSS and the industry. The book is a testament to being yourself and putting all of your passions together to create something unique, and ideally, the industry would be a perfect reflection of that.
Reality is different, though.
Everyone is blogging about the same topics and creating similar images. Everyone is blending in, not standing out. Metholodology is put on a pedestal while originality is left to lurk in the outskirts. And we - girlbosses - are so in sync when it comes to our goals and dreams that we can't see we've blended in too much. If your industry is so in sync, you may need to distance yourself in order to preserve your uniqueness.
Thing is, your audience doesn't want the same things. It deserves more.
So think about your industry. Is everyone saying the same thing? What don't you like about it? How can you change the way you do things to align your business with your values better? How can you better express the things that matter to you most?
Form a sub-party.
Have you watched Gilmore Girls? In Season 5, Logan says:
Lesson #1 in coping with painfully boring parties: Form a sub-party.
He proceeds to steal a bottle of wine and go into the pool house with our Rory and a bunch of other guys from Yale. This is a genius approach because you don't have to focus on the "influencers" or "experts" out there, but form your own little group of people who get it and whose message, values, and goals are just as unique as yours.
It can be a mastermind group or just a group of fellow entrepreneurs who are rocking the creative rebel thing and are fairly responsive online. Nothing fun about talking into the void or leaving comments on zombie blogs (you know, where the blogger doesn't respond to comments even though they post new stuff every week). Your sub-party is made up of people you admire and respect and who admire and respect you back.
If I were at a boring party right now, I'd grab these peeps and GO WILD:
You may or may not always agree with your party peeps, but they understand the importance of doing your own thing. They are the peeps you should collaborate with because anyone else just wouldn't get your desire to stand out as most people just want to blend in, and you can't blame them for being afraid of standing out. After all, it invites scrutiny and ridicule and criticism, but that is the price you pay for being unique.
That is the price we - creative rebels - are happy to pay and pay again.
They say you are the sum total of your five closest friends. But when your besties don't understand the madness you've involved yourself into, you need "business besties," which Devan Danielle wrote about recently. So look at the people around you and find those special peeps who will make everything better and back to unique.
Get inspiration elsewhere.
Marie Forleo is a fellow multipassionate who is famous for giving good advice like: a) read Now Discover Your Strengths and b) get inspiration from other industries. She knows that it's very easy to get entrenched in one's own industry and that it's important to step away from the noise and the "sameness" of it all. Obviously, you'll never be able to come up with fresh ideas if you keep consuming and regurgitating everything around you.
It's kind of like this Chinese Proverb:
Men in the game are blind to what men looking on see clearly.
It's impossible for you to see what you're doing until someone tells you or you see it yourself, which is what I did. You see, I do these regular self check-ins to see if I did something untypical of me, and I do it because I'm very empathic, which means being susceptible to other people's moods, methods, etc. Every once in a while it's good to check yourself: Do I really want to say this or did it come from somewhere else?
Anyway, let's talk about getting inspiration elsewhere. An excellent example is Regina whose blog looks just like a magazine because she has experience in the magazine industry and she happens to run a magazine that is brilliant - The Independent.
As for me, I usually get inspired from TV shows. It's a funny thing to say out loud, but it's true. Sometimes I'd draw analogies between certain TV shows and some of the marketing terms in my head. For example, if the new X-Files season were a personal brand, it would be a scattered and inefficient one. Game of Thrones, on the other hand, would probably rule over all the brands and be the standard against which all else is measured.
Maybe you're interested in surrealism or publishing or self-help or astrology or reading the Tarot cards. The more you let your worlds merge, the fresher your perspective will be and the more creative connections you will make.
Few people know that one of the first articles I ever sold - for less than a dollar - was an article where I'd turned my Tarot readings into a writing exercise to uncover the deep motivations of one's protagonist. It's an article I'll always hold dear to me because it shows how two completely different things can work extremely well together.
Merge the worlds, my friend. You won't be sorry.
You don't have to follow all the rules and use the methods everyone else uses. You don't have to use the same phrases or say the same things. There are people out there who offer their unique alternatives to the challenges and problems of the world.
As I write my next ebook The Creative Rebel's Guide to Standing Out Online, I'm overcome with humility and inspiration every time I think of the thought leaders and rebels, who against all odds, changed the rules in their industries. But I'm even more inspired by everyday people who do the same and inspire others to follow suit.
There are unicorns out there who have managed to preserve their unique voices, make their own set of rules, and create unique systems to navigate the madness. I'm sure you've noticed them: Ash Ambirge, Jen Carrington, Nathalie Lussier, Jason Zook, Tara Gentile, Paul Jarvis, Sian Richardson, Austin Kleon, Danielle LaPorte, and some others.
The more you're being yourself and doing things your way, the more people around you are inspired to do the same. Jen (or was it Danielle?) from She Percolates says that her definition of success is when someone thanks her for helping them see things differently. It's exactly how I feel when someone says a creation of mine helped them!
Now, I created the Authentic Marketing Blueprint because I was tired of the same old spammy marketing and I needed a different kind of marketing. While I don't expect it to change the world, it is my mish-mash of creation and it's already helped someone:
The BEST feeling in the world is when you know your invention has improved someone else's life. We are not consumers and regurgitators. We are creators.
What about you? Do you have any alternatives for the world? Anything that you really don't like about your industry that you think need changing? The world has never been more open-minded than it is today, so it's time to show your creative stamp.
I hope against all hope that you'll remain a creator above all.
My last article was industry-influenced. You could tell, right?
I listed "smart strategies to scale up your business" and noticed that none of my creative rebel friends said anything about it. How could they? They were probably thinking I had a fit or something or that I was having yet another identity crisis.
Everything we do teaches us something. This particular instance taught me that I need to stay on point and consume less, especially from my own industry. Maybe it's cool to be the one who says I watched Maya's latest webinar and Mariah's email was so transparent and you won't believe what Melyssa said in hers, but that has zero appeal for me.
At the end of the day, I didn't join this industry to gossip or copy or emulate anyone. I joined it because I saw amazingly brave women who built amazing lives for themselves. That's still true, but I think we can all use fresher content. We need to ONLY consume content that brings value into our lives, like Jen says, not fodder or yet another "webinar about how to do webinars," as Ash recently joked on The Middle Finger Project blog.
You control your content strategy. You come up with your topics and titles. It's your responsibility to create valuable content, and it's your job to consume as much fresh and valuable content as you can from places that are not your industry, a.k.a. places that are not so oversaturated with the same advice, topics, and phrases.
I mean, I'd be very happy if I didn't have to see yet another self-care article...
One of my favorite quotes comes from Sian Richardson:
Stop trying to win at everyone else's game, and start trying to win at your own.
This is vital for creative rebels. You'll never be able to beat people at their own games, but you'll always be the champion of yours. Because you make the rules.
There's a whole other world outside your industry. Thinking outside of it, creating outside of it, and most of all, consuming outside of it will give you fresh eyes, a fresh mind, and a ton of new ideas and connections that are just waiting to be made.