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This is a great read with legitimate, no-fluff, realistic information for producing work, of all sorts, that will live on beyond its initial creation and release.
...the Lindy effect. Named after a famous restaurant where showbiz types used to meet to discuss trends in the industry, it observes that every day something lasts, the chances that it will continue to last increase.
To be great, one must make great work, and making great work is incredibly hard. It must be our primary focus. We must set out, from the beginning, with complete and total commitment to the idea that our best chance of success starts during the creative process.
"The best way to increase a startup's growth rate is to make the product so good people recommend it to their friends."
If you are trying to make something great, you must do the making: That work cannot be outsourced to someone else.
You certainly can't expect to scratch an itch you can't identify...
..."having no specific user in mind" is one of the eighteen major mistakes that kills startups...
The best way I've found to avoid missing your target—any target—entirely is to identify a proxy from the outset, someone who represents your ideal audience, who you then think about constantly throughout the creative process.
...you have to "write to please just one person.
Forget you generalized audience.
In writing, you audience is one single reader.
If you don't know who you're writing for or who you're making for, how will you know if you're doing it right? How will you know if you've done it? You are unlikely to hit a target you haven't aimed for. Hope is not helpful here; having something and someone to measure against is.
Avoid this potential miss by articulating and defining the specific audience while you are creating—yet don't make it so specific that only member of the audience is you. You must be able to see them, to empathize with them, to understand and even love them.
...our work must "always be for the purpose of something."
Just as we should ask "Who is this for?" we must also ask "what does this do?" A critical test of any product: Does it have a purpose? Does it add value to the world? How will it improve the lives of the people who buy it?
A recent stud of more than a hundred failed startups determined that "tackling problems that are interesting to solve rather than those that serve a market need was cited as the number one reason for failure in a notable 42% of cases."
One of the best pieces of advice I've gotten as a creator was from a successful writer who told me that the key to success in nonfiction was that the work should be either "very entertaining" or "extremely practical."
"The subject of dying and getting old never gets old."
...touch upon timeless problems an myths...
"The ones that get the closest to it..."last the longest."
The bigger and more painful the problem you solve, the better its cultural hook, and the more important and more lucrative your attempt to address it can be.
So the creator of any project should try to answer some variant of these questions:
- What does this teach?
- What does this solve?
- How am I entertaining?
- What am I giving?
- What are we offering?
- What are we sharing?
In short: What are these people going to be paying for? If you don't know—if the answer isn't overwhelming—then keep thinking.
An essential part of making perennial, lasting work is making sure that you're pursuing the best of your ideas and that they are ideas that only you can have (otherwise, you're dealing with a commodity and not a classic).
...Blue Ocean Strategy...their studies revealed that it was far better to see fresh, uncontested "blue" water.
...the most original artworks "are not rated as such because they produce something new" but because they are saying something "as though it had never been said before." They are blue oceans, providing something new or timeless.
..."Only is better than best."
The higher and more exciting standard for every project should force you to ask questions like this:
What sacred cows am I slaying?
What dominant institution am I displacing?
What groups am I disrupting?
What people am I pissing off?
"Either you're controversial," as the perpetually controversial writer Elizabeth Wurtzel advises creatives, "or nothing at all is happening."
...to be properly controversial—as opposed to incomprehensible—you must have obsessively studies your genre or industry to a degree that you know which boundaries to push and which to respect.
Why are things the way they are? What practices should be questioned and which should remain sound? This allows us to be both exotic and accessible, shocking but not gratuitous, fresh without sacrificing timelessness.
You want to provoke a reaction—it's a sign you're forging ahead.
You work may shock people, they might not be willing to accept it right away—but that's also a sign that you've created something fresh and truly original.
Our goal here is to make something that people rave about, that becomes part of their lives.
Deep, complex work is built through relentless, repetitive process of revisitation.
There's a famous bit of advice from Stephen King to "kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler's heart, kill your darlings." Basically, he's talking about the tough decisions that creators must make as they create, as they ruthlessly edit and evolve their creations until they're as good as they can possibly be.
"The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death."
This fear isn't comfortable, but it's a good sign. It will make you diligent.
The more nervous and scared you are—the more you feel compelled to go back and improve and tweak because you're just not ready—the better it bodes for the project. Because your goal is one that should make any rational person tremble a bit.
Once you understand that this project's chances of success or failure rest entirely on you, you must undertake a paradoxical and difficult task: finding and submitting your work to the feedback of a trusted outside voice (or, in some cases, voices).
The first draft of anything is shit.
"Remember: When people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong."
Getting feedback requires humility.
Not only should you be testing your project as you create it, you must most seriously test your creation as it begins to resemble a final product. So you know what you have—so you can improve it. So you know what you have—so that you might figure out what to do with it. So you know what you have—so you can adjust you expectations.
We need to have our own test: Does a summary of the book work as a talk? Are the early users you've given prototypes to already addicted to their early versions of the product? Does what you made scratch your own itch in a way that suggests it will do the same for others?
...write to think...
A similar exercise that I like to do with all my projects is one I call "One Sentence, One Paragraph, One Page." It goes like this: Put the website or the beta version of your app or your manuscript aside and grab a piece of paper or open a blank Word document. Then, with fresh eyes, attempt to write out exactly what your project is supposed to be and to do in...
This is a _____that does_____. This helps people_____.
Fill in this template at the three varying lengths. It's best to do this exercise in the third person, creating a bit of artificial distance from the project so you can't fall back on, "Well, I think that..." Deal with facts instead.
The key to this is to service the core audience first and do so in a way that does not alienate the others—only then can you emanate outwardly from the center.
Today, in order to even have a chance at people's attention, your project has to seem as good as or better than all the others. Three critical variables determine whether that will happen: the Positioning, the Packaging and the Pitch.
Positioning is what your project is and who it is for.
Packaging is what it looks like and what it's called.
The Pitch is the sell—how the project is described and what it offers to the audience.
...it's critical that you be able not only to clearly and concisely explain who and what you are, but also to show it, too.
The same article with a slightly different headline can have a tenfold spread in readership.
When it comes to attracting an audience, the creators who take the time to get their positioning and packaging right—who don't just go with their first instinct and hope—are the ones who will win.
"If you can't be first in a category," the law states, "set up a new category you can be first in."
...positioning isn't simply a matter of moving words around on the page. It can be taking action or making a structural change in your product or organization. It's also doing the things that allow you to have the market fit you need to stand out and be interesting.
A great package on a great product is what creates an explosive reaction.
What is it that you want? What is truly motivating you? What are you trying to accomplish with this project? The answer should be clear by now: I am making a ______ that does ______ for _____ because _____.
The "why" doesn't need to be public—but if you can't define your goal for yourself, how will you know if you've achieved it?
Elon Musk knows that his mission is to get a human being on Mars, and he believes that the future of humanity rests on it. That's the kind of clarity you want.
Some of our reasons will be serious, some will be self-interested or seemingly trivial—"No one's ever done this before, and I'd like to try"—but clarity of purpose and clarity of goals is essential.
There are many different missions. Whatever yours is, it must be defined and articulated.
Once that has occurred, there is on last thing you must do. You must deliberately forsake all other missions. If your goal is to make a masterpiece, a perennial seller for a specific audience, it follow that you can't also hope that it is a trendy, of-the-moment side hustle.
Nothing ahs sunk more creators and caused more unhappiness that this: our inherently human tendency to pursue a strategy aimed at accomplishing one goal while simultaneously expecting to achieve other goals entirely unrelated.
Seneca wrote that what's require is "confidence in yourself and the belief that you are on the right path, and not led astray by the many tracks which cross yours of people who are hopelessly lost, though some are wandering not far from the true path."
With a perennial seller as your goal, the track is clear: lasting impact and relevance.
...marketing is anything that gets or keeps customers.
"[Each project] needs somebody who says, 'I am going to make this succeed,' and then goes to work on it."
What comes next is applying the same amount of creativity and energy into marketing as you put into making.
No one has the steam or the resources to actively market something for more than a short period of time, so if a product is going to sell forever, it must have strong word of mouth. It must drive its own adoption. Over the long haul, this is the only thing that lasts.
"People also tend to like things that other people like,"
"The problem for most artists isn't privacy, it's obscurity."
What is the right price to create a perennial seller? ...as cheap as possible without damaging the perception of your product.
Price is marketing. Are there exceptions to this rule? Of course. - There are plenty of fashion brands that have ruined themselves by discounting their products or distributing through the wrong, cheap retailers.
What's the best way to ask someone to endorse or share your work? Trick question. The best way is not to ask. - ...the "swag bomb"—a perfectly tailored and targeted package to the person he was trying to impress.
Don't be afraid of pissing people off either.
..."news-jacking,"..."the process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business."
A broader definition of "newsjacking" would then be; when people and the media are all talking about a certain topic, insert yourself into that conversation by connecting what you do with what they're already talking about.
The best way to create a list is to provide incredible amounts of value.
Once you have started to see the slow accumulation of success for a work over the long haul, you can't quit on a project.
Build a Body of Work
Making is also marketing
The best marketing you can do for your book is to start writing the next one.
More great work is the best way to market yourself.
Same goes for the entrepreneur—whether her company has just sold or just failed, the best thing she can do for her career? Start the next company.
...creating more work is one of the most effective marketing techniques of all.
...a true entrepreneur starts more than one business.
One of the thing all creatives must do during their downtime is explore new ways of reaching new fans.
Don't be afraid to try crazy things.
empire—expanding into adjacent industries, starting companies, building new brands, grooming proteges, growing bigger and stronger...
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