Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else. – Margaret Mead
I was listening to an interview on The Creative Penn and the topic of genre came up.
Genre is something I find hard to understand – and I’ve tried a few times to wrap my head around Shawn Coyne’s words on the topic and always come away with a headache instead.
So, let’s try again.
Coyne writes that “A Genre is a label that tells the reader/audience what to expect. Genres simply manage audience expectations. It’s really that simple. Don’t let the French etymology and pronunciation scare you.”
We’d all like to be appreciated for the unique person each of us is but that’s really too much to ask.
Most people don’t have the time or the interest in understanding someone else all that much.
Eleanor Roosevelt said ““You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”
In storytelling the point of genre is to help readers quickly select what they really want to read.
When I have some free time, for example, I read thrillers – books with action and very little real thinking.
It’s the opposite of the kind of stuff I read most of the time – and so it’s a welcome distraction.
Genre is everywhere – it’s really just a form of classification and if you want to be a member of a particular profession you need to learn the genre conventions that apply.
Not in a vague, theoretical sense but in a practical, applicable sense.
With stories, for example, Coyne talks about time, reality, content, structure and style.
Music has genres – from folk to jazz and beyond.
The hardest part for someone looking to stand apart from the crowd and be recognised for their individual and singular contribution is realising that they have to start by picking a crowd to join.
In the beginning, life is about which box you fit into.
In order to be accepted into a group you need to be similar to other members of the group.
If you’ve had the misfortune of having boxes full of microplastic beads you’ll know what happens when the colours get mixed up.
Having red pieces mixed in with the blue beads means you have to get the tweezers out and rearrange things.
It’s like that with most things in life.
You’re probably going to notice things that are out of place – and reject them.
Now – does that mean you should change the way you are to fit in?
It really depends on what you’re trying to do.
For example, if you’re starting a business it makes sense to think about whether your business model fits into a particular genre.
Some businesses are about freelancing. Others might be capital intensive or revolve around a brand identify.
The ability of a business model to deliver what you want is constrained by the characteristics of its genre.
A freelance business is unlikely to make you a millionaire while running a large corporation is unlikely to give you the time to spend six months writing a book on insect psychology.
Of course, none of this is new stuff.
I wrote a few years ago about the five ways your business can increase its earnings.
And this concept becomes really simple when you think in terms of biology.
A baby buffalo that is separated from the herd is the one the lioness takes down.
The secret to survival is to stay in the middle of the herd until you’re big and strong enough to face off a lioness.
First fit in.
Then, when you’re secure, stand out.