Defy the Limitations of Your Medium
Most artists have a canvas, a blank page, a camera, an instrument. But some artists defy the limitations of their medium.
- Walt Disney continually defied the limitations of his medium. He saw beyond the page, beyond two dimensions and into three. And beyond the screen and into the world.
- Caigo Shang used fireworks as his paintbrush and the sky as his canvas. Defy the limitations of a medium and you can build a ladder into the sky.
Just because something is in your zone of genius, that doesn’t mean it’s all your capable of. I’m in my zone of genius when I interview people. Writing is how I defied the limitations of my medium.
I’ve planned an event, been the executive producer of an animated series and did things that I was completely unqualified for.
Defy the limitations of a medium and you might end up defying your own. Or as Al Pacino more bluntly said to Chris O’Donnell in Scent of a Woman, “What are you, some kind of chickenshit who sticks to job description only?”
Draw a Line in the Sand
A couple of months ago, a guest pitched himself for the Unmistakable Creative. I said no. He mentioned the millions of page views on his site and his appearance on a major media outlet. I still said no because it wasn’t a story I wanted to tell.
A few years ago, I drew a line in the sand. I’d never choose a guest based on what it might do for our metrics. I’d also never agree to an interview where the guest wouldn’t give us an hour. I’ve also been ruthless about cutting interviews in the middle or choosing not to publish.
It’s cost us in terms of our metrics and lost us potential guests. I’ve said no to famous social media celebrities and passed on people everyone else said yes to. I’ve pissed off a few people along the way. But, sacrificing meaning for metrics is a slippery slope.
The assistant of a really famous author pushed back. She’d never heard our show and said, “He’ll provide more value than in 30 minutes than all your guests have in an hour.” It was bullshit. He didn’t. Then we spoke with Bushra Azhar, an expert on the same subject as the famous author (now you probably know who he is). She delivered, and we realized that our line in the sand should never be negotiable, ever.
Sometimes people will test your line in the sand. When you stand firm, they’ll change their mind. The publicists at my own publisher tested my line the sand. They said an author THEY pitched for the podcast didn’t have more than 30 minutes. I said, “No problem. Good luck with the launch. But we’ll have to pass.” An hour later they found the time.
AJ Leon drew a line in the sand when we limited the number of tickets to his conference. He held it in Fargo, and kept the prices low enough for people to attend, and took a hit to his own pocketbook. Maybe it’s bad business, but those who were there will never forget the experience.
Oprah drew a line in the sand when she decided not to compete with the typical trash that litters day time talk shows. It cost her ratings in the short term, and paid off in a big way in the long run.
Drawing a line in the sand polarizes. It’s not about being an asshole. But it’s a clear indication of your values, what you are and what you’re not willing to do. It’s a signal that my work is for you or it’s not.
It’s not easy to draw a line in the sand because you will offend people. But for every person you offend, you’ll turn another from a fan into a fanatic. I was happy the day I got my first 2-star review for my recent book. The message was polarizing enough to draw a line in the sand.
When you draw your line in the sand, followers become fans, and fans become fanatical members of a small army to help you fight daily battles in the war of art.
This is part of a series about how to become a more prolific creator. You can download the entire book for free here.