Omar Shehata

Let it be genre defining

From Omar's notebook.

I've been reading The Anthropocene Reviewed and getting such intense feelings of inspiration & joy mixed with regret. This is a familiar feeling. It's how you feel when you find something that's amazing & successful, and you feel like you could have created this. Perhaps because it's very similar to an idea you once had.

You're happy that this wonderful work exists, because you enjoy it and at one point you felt like this needed to exist in the world. But you're sad that you're not the one who made it, and you can't help but think about the missed opportunity, and how close you came to the fame & fortune that this work is now receiving.

I don't think this feeling is helpful. It saps my motivation and pushes me to abandon things just because a similar idea has been done before, even when that's not a good idea. So here's how I deal with it.

Let it be genre defining

What if this unique idea wasn't just a one off, but instead a whole new sub-genre? What if there was room not just for your own version of it, but for lots of variations on this idea and a big audience who enjoys all of them?

Thinking of it this way completely dissipates the negative feelings of regret & dread for me. Just because it's been done before is not enough of a reason to abandon your idea because:

  1. If it exists & is successful, there's a good chance people want more of it. So they'll probably want to try yours too when it comes out. This is common business advice, being the first to market isn't always an advantage.
  2. In creative work, it's unlikely that their approach to the idea was identical to yours. If you think you can make a version that resonates more with you personally, that could be true of many people who consume the work too.

Remembering let it be genre defining helps me enjoy what I'm reading and playing more, and it makes me feel like there is room for my creative work too.

An example

The Anthropocene Reviewed is essentially a collection of essays on John Green's favorite things about the human experience. I love it so much because it's incredibly uplifting. He picks all these things that are very meaningful to him personally, from the grandiose like the human capacity for wonder, to the mundane, like scratch 'n sniff stickers.

It feels very similar to my 7 second surveys project in spirit. I created these surveys in college to find meaning in seemingly mundane experiences, like how long you stay in bed after waking up. I have had a lot of feelings around this throughout my life, both shame & triumph, but it's not something that really comes up in conversation. I wanted to know if others felt the way I did, and if so, maybe we can all feel less alone.

I've always wanted to expand on these surveys into a book, similar to the anthropocene book. And I also really like the idea of just picking out my favorite things about the human experience and writing about them, and sharing them. But alas! It has already been done...

But so what? There's no reason I can't use the same structure. It's going to be a very different book, because my list is not the same as John Green's. And maybe lots of other people want to do that too, why not! I'd love to read others' list of what their favorite things about the human experience is.