Empathy and Risk


The existence of that Seth speaks link down there on the right side of this page has been questioned more than once during the past year. Usually, the puzzlement is framed in terms of Mr. Godin's focus on Marketing, and why that might be particularly interesting—or pertinent—in the context of my decidedly non-commercial blog. One answer, I suppose, is that I simply like his ideas and the way they're presented. Another is that they're so often applicable in my world. As it happens, the proof of that lies within the last ten days or so of his blog entries.

For example, the July 23 post is very much about writing, and more specifically, about commonly held beliefs concerning who wants to read what. As the title suggests, empathy can't be overlooked.

The things that fascinate you about your life are almost always banal to strangers. Strangers want to read about their lives, not yours.

To me, the point isn't that people are literally interested in reading some sort of regurgitated version of their own daily realities. The point I take is that the reader has to be able to put himself in the story, but has to first want to put himself there. This is true even if it's pure science fiction. Who wants to go on a deep-space mission that consists of induced hibernation for all humans aboard the ship, while the narrator is a navigation/life-support computer with nothing much to say? It's tough to empathize with that.

At first glance, the July 21 post is about CDs at a garage sale, but that isn't where it winds up. Again, there's an applicable component; there's food for thought in the context of writing, among other things.

Musicians, bloggers, writers--if you're toiling in the long tail, getting stuck at zero is now a real possibility. Being just like the other guys but trying harder is less of an effective strategy than ever before.

It's tempting, sometimes, to be just like everyone else. It seems safer somehow—the outcome is easier to predict—to use proven methods and simply try harder than the other guy. But although it's been known to work out for a lot of folks, it can't work out forever. Someone has to be willing to put the new ideas into practice, and that involves risk.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and all that. But really, the proven methods of today were once on that bleeding edge, too.


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