Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Genres Are Vehicles, Not Content

I realized something interesting today. There are a lot of similarities between books of different genres. Seriously, way more than you think. I hope this post will convince you to search outside your traditional genre for something you didn't know was there. The results will surprise you. Read on...

For a long time I've read pretty much exclusively non-fiction, business books. I read a lot about personal development and the exploits of others. I also have read a lot of philosophical fiction, my favorite being Paulo Coelho, a brilliant Brazilian author. (He wrote The Alchemist).

A favorite business author of mine is Seth Godin, author of Tribes, The Dip, and Purple Cow, among many others. He also happens to have the most widely read business blog in the world.

What I noticed astonished me. The entire premise of The Dip, which is about getting through the tough parts to make it to the wonderful success at the end, was very similar to a lot of the things Paulo Coelho talks about in his books.

Here's an example:

Coelho writes about Beginner's Luck in The Alchemist. Basically he describes it as the Universe wetting your appetite with success. What usually follows are incredibly tough times and heartache. (I know this, I've been there personally). Eventually, if a person perseveres long enough he/she will fulfill their Personal Legend.

Now, lets get away from Coelho's spiritual and somewhat cryptic speech and move toward more pragmatic language.

Godin, in his short book The Dip, writes passionately about starting something new, whether a new project, career, business, or skill. At the beginning, things seem to be fun and awesome and moving along smoothly. Then, you hit a wall and the fun goes away and suddenly everything becomes difficult. The part that makes everybody else quit. This seems to get more impossibly difficult until finally, you're on a rapid upswing. The persistence pays off, and you have your success.

Both are simply different formats for telling the same story. I know I've noticed this before, yet now it's flooding me.

A genre is merely a vehicle for understanding, not the content itself. Remember that.