The gym at my condo building has these little TVs hooked up to each of their machines, so each person can entertain themselves however they wish while working out (or, just stare at a black shiny square!). Nice huh? Except I can’t get the channel buttons to work, so I end up watching whatever channel the person before me had on.
This is how I came to watch Hungry Girl on the Food Network yesterday. For those of you who are not both foodies and health nuts, allow me to introduce this show. Hungry Girl shares simple recipes that offer healthy food options and alternatives to not-so-good-for-you cravings. This week was all about pasta.
The gist was this: pasta sucks. Pasta is bad for you. Pasta will make you fat and destroy your dreams. Don’t eat pasta. And if you absolutely MUST eat it, eat as little as possible. With these simple tricks.
The tricks started out pretty feasible. Try these Japanese tofu noodles. When you make lasagna, trade in every other pasta layer for eggplant slices. Everything, Hungry Girl assures you, is super tasty and you totally won’t be able to tell the difference.
Then she proposed something that went a step farther. Substitute pasta noodles with broccoli slaw. She discovered it because she didn’t have anything in the house, and she was so hungry she started eating the food she was feeding her pet rabbit, broccoli slaw. She recommends boiling it on the stove then topping with a thick tomato soup. Top with garlic, parmesan cheese (low fat!) and other spices if you wish. This will totally satisfy any pasta craving. Hungry Girl promises you.
Two problems with this. One: As a person who has pasta for dinner two or three times a week, I am telling you, I will not be satisfied with rabbit food. Two: The suggestion to replace high-carb foods with vegetables is hardly a novel idea If we were satisfied with that answer, we would not feel the need to turn to quippy TV personalities for ideas.
What does this have to do with your creative endeavors?
Don’t give your clients rabbit food.
You are an artist. You are a creative. People don’t come to you for your field’s equivalent of broccoli. They come to you for your special scrumptious spin. Give them something delicious and substantive.
I am a PR and social media strategist. I’ve made a career at creative agencies. If all I can offer is a Twitter profile and a tipoff that Pinterest is hot, what am I being paid for? You can find a paint-by-numbers public relations strategy a million different places online.
As a creative, people aren’t coming to you for information. They can find that on the Internet. And they’re not coming to you for execution. They can hire an intern to do that. They’re coming to you for your personal flair.
Don’t get me wrong. Knowing your field matters. I’d never take health advice from a chef who didn’t understand that vegetables are better for you than pasta.
But that knowledge is not enough. There are tons of other professionals in your field with the same basic knowledge as you. What will make them pick you over someone else?
The few times I’ve moved and had to job-hunt, it wasn’t years of experience or perfect grammar that got me in. It was examples of what I’d done that was different that people wanted to talk about–like the Zombie Preparedness Tool Kits I mailed to radio stations and bloggers to build buzz as part of hardware store’s Halloween campaign.
The same is true for you. You naturally put your own unique spin on everything you touch. Use it. Flaunt it. Milk it for all it’s worth. Believe in it. Don’t ever underestimate it.
And never ever come back to a client asking for a delicious signature dish with a bowl of rabbit food.