The “It’s Already Been Done” Blues
When I first read the title of Gary Vaynerchuk’s new book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, I felt defeated. I’d been working on my book, The Essential Life Story, for five years. I’d already asked myself many times: What if someone else gets to this before me? It felt like my worst nightmare had come true. Someone beat me to it. I felt especially defeated by the title. It felt better than mine. Super catchy. And of course there was the fact that he’s a best-selling author, and I’d only published a couple articles. I was singing the “It’s Already been Done” blues.
Luckily, in the next moment, I thought of my clients and the fact that I’ve heard this kind of thing before. I hear it a lot actually: Teri, there’s already so much out there on the subject of my play/screen play/book. I should probably just forget about it. My knee jerk reaction every time is the same, to even the most seemingly valid excuses about why you can’t do what you feel drawn to. Of course you’re suppose to keep going! We’ve never heard your version of the story before. It’s coming to you for a reason—because it’s meant to be born. We need to hear the version only you can tell. So, I begrudgingly swallowed my own advice, tried to breathe, and ordered a copy of his book. I’m really glad I did, for many reasons.
First of all, it was really good. It was also completely different from mine, in a different genre even. I’d way over-reacted because of my own fear. It’s not a self-help book about changing your life through story, it’s about connecting with your audience through social media. It’s a book I’ll be referencing a lot as I promote my own work. The title also set me down a path of coming up with a better title for my own book. That wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t allowed myself to open to, engage with, and even celebrate the work of what I thought was “my competition.” Reading it brought home one of my beliefs on a more visceral and experiential level: that competition doesn’t really exist when you’re being yourself. Only collaboration exists, because no one else is just like you.
Even if his book had been a lot like mine, it still wouldn’t have been a good reason to give up. On the contrary, it means there’s already a great market for my work. People are always hungry for a new version of what’s already popular. We get to use others’ successes to fuel our own. While there are those who would argue that we simply don’t need another zombie movie or travel memoir, the market begs to differ. Besides, the fact a story exists inside you at all, is evidence that the world needs it. It doesn’t matter how many times other people have talked about, written about, sung about, or put the subject matter you want to share on film. There is only one person on the planet who can tell your version of the story. Don’t rob us of it!
When you have a great dream, it can be really easy to find excuses to give up.
Singing the “It’s Already Been Done” blues is just one way out of being afraid it won’t work out. It can be really scary to go for it. I mean, what if it doesn’t work out? At least right now, you have the dream. If you fall flat on your face, you won’t even have that anymore. While that idea may sound logical, it’s not really how it works. It actually always works out.
Because even if your dream doesn’t “work out” in the way you hoped, if it doesn’t win an award or get seen, at the very least, you will invariably learn a ton, and it will be a critical stepping stone toward the next project that will succeed in the ways you want. You can’t always see that from where you stand in the moment, but when you keep moving forward with the next dream that presents itself, in a short while you’ll see how your previous dream was setting you up for success with the present one.