“Insist on yourself; never imitate.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“I don’t ride to beat the boys — just to win!” That’s how a pioneering female jockey described her style. I really love the racy flavor of this comment: it’s bold and brassy. This gal, whoever she was, wasn’t looking over her shoulder to see who was coming up behind her, she was looking ahead at the finish line. She had her eye on the prize.
Whatever you’re working on as a writer, it’s a good bet that you’re not alone. Somewhere, someone may be working on something that’s similar in some way. How many times have you seen two books on the same theme or about the same person profiled together in a story in The New York Times Book Review? It happens just often enough to remind us that it’s a big world out there. Just thinking about this can put us in a competitive frame of mind — one where we start worrying about what other people are doing or how we need to fine-tune our work to make it more “competitive” or “saleable.”
“Never chase the competition” — that’s one of the first lessons captured in my book, The Dollar Bill Knows No Sex, the rags-to-riches tale of Wendy Rue. A ground-breaking entrepreneur, Wendy was a marketing whiz with a million stories. In one, her dad, who was a hosiery salesman, showed her shop after shop where stockings were being advertised at bargain prices: 2 for $2.50! $1.49 a pair! $1.18! Then he took her into his backroom and pulled down a huge cardboard box. In it were the most amazing treasures: Stockings with gold clock appliqués. Stockings aglow with sequins and rhinestones. While storekeepers up and down the street fought each other over nickels and dimes, he sold his fancy stockings for double their prices — and they flew out the door. His message: run your own race.