Don’t fit in

So I’m listening to this book about Elvis. In total, it is is over 50 hours of listening, or more than 1,300 pages if read. Honestly, I didn’t have any particular interest in Elvis before author Jasmin Darznik recommended it, but I really admire her taste in things. So this is a good example of the power of word of mouth marketing to sell books.

I’m still at an early place in the book, and I’m just sort of taken aback by something that has me considering a lesson that writers can apply to their platforms and marketing plans. It’s this:

Don’t bother fitting in.

So many authors worry about how to fit in to the trends of the marketplace. Not just with their books, but how they show up online to share their work, and engage with readers. They want to know the trends, the best practices, the things they “have to do” in order to find success. And while there are certainly times that is useful, I don’t think that should be the center of how you share what you create and why.

I suppose I always saw Elvis as someone so popular, that he fit in to the culture of the 1950s. As if he embodied everything already happening at the time. But in truth, Elvis didn’t fit in. By all accounts, people who came in contact with him in the early years have said:

  • He looked different.
  • He acted different.
  • He moved different.
  • He sounded different.

As I listen to the book, it’s shocking to hear again and again how Elvis didn’t fit in anywhere. How he dressed was wildly different from everyone else around him. How he would walk in a room or on stage or into a group setting, and people just didn’t know what to think. He often wore pink and black, dress slacks with a stripe going down the side, scarves, fancy jackets, unusual shoes in settings where everyone else was just in jeans. He was shy, and didn’t fit into conversation easily.

Today we see these images of Elvis, and they seem iconic. But that isn’t what people thought when Elvis walked in a room in 1953 or 1954. To his classmates, he was this quiet kid who dressed funny. When Roy Orbison met Elvis for the first time to interview him for a radio show he hosted, he summed up the experience like this: “I just didn’t know what to make of him. There was just no reference point in the culture to compare him to.”

So often as a writer builds their author platform or considers how they will share and market their writing, they worry about fitting in to the marketplace. They will try to find strategies that don’t allow them to stand out, because they simply want to fit in. They try to study what the social media algorithms want, what gets viral clicks, what are the “best practices” that are tried and true.

But not fitting in is an amazing strategy to share what you create and why, and connect with people on a deep level.

So much of the work I do with writers is to help them express what they create in a compelling manner, and to clearly understand who their ideal readers are and how to reach them. This work goes deep into who you are, and who they are. And what connects is something that stands out to them, and rings incredibly true to you.

Today, I simply want to encourage you to embrace sharing who you are in an authentic manner, and sharing that with others. Sure, sometimes it may not feel like you “fit in,” and that’s just fine. In fact, that is sometimes preferred.

My 5 year old son watches vintage Mister Rogers episodes every day. Fred Rogers ends every show, looking my son right in the eye and says, “I like you. There is no one else like you in the whole world. I like you exactly as you are.” That is a powerful message for a 5 year old to hear. But also for a 30 year old, 50 year old or 80 year old to hear as well.

There is no one else like you. When you consider how you show up in the world to share your writing, to connect with readers, I encourage you to show up as who you are. And to connect with people as they are.