A Toast To The People Who Will Never, Ever Like Or Get What You Do
When I was a kid, an ad for Sara Lee — a supermarket brand of cakes and breads — ran constantly on TV. The jingle went, Everybody doesn’t like something, but nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee!”
Though I dig the intentionally clunky double negative of “nobody doesn’t,” I call BS on that claim.
Sure, I used to love a Sara Lee frozen banana cake. You could lift the banana frosting right off the cake in one sheet with a fork and eat it like a roll-up. What’s not to like?
But you can bet someone out there didn’t like Sara Lee. Maybe because they only liked homemade. Maybe because they didn’t care for desserts. Maybe because the name “Sara” reminded them of the secretary their husband left them for. (It was that era.)
The lyrics should’ve been, “There’s nothing everyone likes.”
Because that’s the truth.
Think of any brand, personality, or thing that you fiercely love, and you can easily come up with someone who says, “Not for me.”
Case in point:
I don’t like sitting on bar stools.
I don’t like Wes Anderson movies, except for “Rushmore.”
I don’t like traditional room decor, jazz brunch, live music in general, magical realism, hazlenut- or any- flavored coffee, cats, sweet pickles, dangly earrings, or paintings of horses.
Anything with truffle oil makes me gag.
And you know what? I don’t like “Game of Thrones.” I know — Give it at least 5 episodes. I did.
So does that make “Game of Thrones” any less of a great show? Should HBO pull it from the air and retool it? (Cue HBO exec: “Hmm, maybe we should change it to ‘Summer is coming.’”)
Should your acclaimed restaurant yank the truffle fries from the menu because someone like me won’t order them?
Should my friend who matches every outfit with a pair of dangly earrings (usually turquoise) get a style makeover for my thumbs up? (OK, maybe.)
And how about Picasso?
Should he have cooled it with the Cubism and painted more realistically? A lot of people didn’t like those crazy mixed-up lady faces. That’s not where the nose goes!
Think everyone liked Warhol?
To Kill a Mockingbird? Nope, Harper Lee got terrible reviews.
And so might you.
Negative reviews, criticism, “just trying to be helpful”-style feedback, “I wish you would make this, too” suggestions.
A friend will tell you not to shoot in black and white, because color is more “vibrant.”
A potential customer would prefer your gold bangle bracelets as a silver cuff.
Certain collectors won’t even consider your paintings of male nudes, because they don’t want someone’s junk hanging over their sofa. And “flesh color” clashes with their orange accent wall.
Someone will ask you to make some of your signature meat pies meat-free.
Whatever you do creatively, or whatever you sell, there will always be someone who doesn’t like it or get it.
Take it from me.
As a professional writer and blogger, I consider my emails some of my best and most fun work.
Hardcore fans who’ve been on my list for 8 years write me, “I love your stories about growing up in NYC and your rants about Real Housewives — even though I’ve never seen it. Yours are the only emails I actually open and read.”
Other subscribers, meanwhile, write me in a tone so offended, you’d think my newsletter called their grandmother a sack of poop. “I don’t have time for your drivel. It’s unprofessional. Take me off your list immediately or I will notify the authorities.”
I laugh. I email a screenshot to friends: “Ha. Can you believe this sucker?”
But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sting a little. Should I be more buttoned up? I wonder for a hot second. Should I cut out the stories and just give “actionable tips”? I don’t like to turn people off.
It’s a fact of life, though — or of art:
You will turn some people off. To others, you’ll have to say “No, I don’t make that.”
You’d better hope that you do.
Because if you’re for everybody, you’re for nobody.
Watering down your style, your art, your brand in order to cater to the people who don’t get or like you means that you’ll have a whole lot of people who don’t think much of you one way or the other.
The only way to succeed as an artist or creative of any kind is to be for the weirdos who love what you do.
The ones who say “not for me” are not for you.
Raise a glass to those people, because they’ve just given you a hot clue about what you should be even more of. Not less.
Whatever they don’t like, dial that up to eleven.
Develop your signature style and stick to it — unless the one who wants it to be different is you.
Aiming for “nobody doesn’t like me” is a recipe for mediocrity. And even if mediocrity has decent banana frosting, that’s not what you’re here to be.
Laura Belgray, founder of Talking Shrimp, is an award-winning copywriting expert and unapologetic lazy person. She writes TV spots for clients like NBC, Fandango, and Bravo, and helps entrepreneurs and creatives get paid to be 100% themselves. Get her 5 Tips of Non-Sucky Copy here.