At one point in your writing career you’ll have to make a choice, and that choice will have little to do with the art of writing and with the business of writing, but a lot to do with who you are and what you believe you can do.
Because it’s all in your head.
That choice will be:
To swim with the other fish or to swim on your own?
To follow the leader or to be the leader?
To copy the tips and the tricks and the techniques, or to make up your own tips and tricks and techniques?
Red ocean or blue ocean?
This concept is taken from the book Blue Ocean Strategy which I read and reread in my startup days, and which I’m rereading now.
The concept is simple.
Do you follow the pack of sharks and fight for the scraps of food left over from the Great White? Or do you swim into uncharted waters unaware of what awaits you, all alone?
Do you decide to fight for the piece of the pie that’s already been divided and there are only crumbs left for you, or do you go off and make your own pie from scratch and have the biggest slice, because you’re first and you’re the one who made it?
The choice is:
Do you as a writer decide to follow in someone else’s footsteps who has figured out a system that works: how to plot, how to write a bestseller, how to launch your book so it gets on bestseller lists, and so on? Or do you as a writer decide to do it all from scratch? And I don’t mean completely from scratch because everything has already been done. I mean, do you study what’s been done and extract what works for YOU and makes sense to YOU and create a completely new system?
Do you follow or do you lead?
Your career will depend on it. And once again, it has nothing to do with the art or the business of writing. It has everything to do with what you believe in. What YOU believe YOU can do.
The distinction is simple.
If you decide to stay with the pack and swim in the red ocean (red because it’s bloody), you choose to fight competition. You choose to follow the leader who has created something that works and has already eaten the biggest slice of the pie, and you’re only number 2 or 3, if you’re lucky (and then actually stand a chance of making a profit), or you’re number 4 or 5, or worse, 104 or 105, so you scramble to make a living and then finally give up after getting burned out.
If, however, you decide to swim out on your own, you have a chance of creating a blue ocean where competition is irrelevant, because your plotting model and your book-selling methods and your writing tips and tricks and techniques will be nothing like anything that’s been done before, yet they'll borrow from everything that’s been done before. Now you can make your own pie and eat it all, long before anyone figures out what exactly you’re doing and swims over to grab a bite. Only by then it’ll be too late. You would've eaten it already. And by eating it, you'll gain new wisdom. As soon as your blue ocean turns red from fighting, you’ll swim away and create another blue ocean, and another, and another. You’ll continue to innovate while the others continue to fight.
So what do you choose?
It’s tough to believe in yourself and go off on intuition alone. Trust it. You have that gut feeling for a reason. Go for it and capture the market that’s so new, it doesn’t even exist yet, and so competition is irrelevant because you’ll be the only one there.
Sounds too good to be true? It’s not. It’s been proven by countless businesses again and again. Read the book for examples.
Your writing is an art, but it's also a business.
Well then. Which ocean will it be for you? Red or blue?