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What do the following words have in common?
Did you guess? They’re all brand names. AND – the companies involved became so good in their industries – their space – that their brand names became synonymous with their products.
For a long time, people said, “I’ll go Xerox these documents” at least as frequently as they said “I’ll go make photocopies of these documents.” People still say “Hand me a Kleenex” and “I want a Bandaid,” probably more often than they say “Hand me a facial tissue” or “I want a bandage.”
The new king, nay emperor, of idiom is Google. Does ANYONE say, “I’m going to go run an internet search on the term ‘Astro Boy’?” NO! Almost everyone says, “I’m going to Google ‘Astro Boy’.” And they don’t say “I’m going to Bing ‘Astro Boy'” (does that sound bad to anyone else?) or “I’m going to Yahoo ‘Astro Boy'” even though Bing and Yahoo are also popular search tools. Everyone with access to the internet knows what you mean by Googling (or googling) a term. Google dominated internet search for so long that it became synonymous with search.
Google OWNS its space.
Now think about YOUR space. (Do you have a space yet? If not – pick the space you would LOVE to own and start there.) What would it look like if you OWNED your space? What would it mean for people to “[YOUR NAME HERE]’?
So – taking myself as my own favorite example – if I want to be a killer writer, if I want people to say ‘that person AMI’d that piece!’ what would that look like?
- Making lots of money from my writing? Maybe. But that doesn’t seem to get to the heart of the matter, does it? Google doesn’t own its space because it makes lots of money – and Wells Fargo Bank and Proctor and Gamble make lots of money but don’t own their space in the way that Google does. So OWNING your space is not about the money.
- Knowing a lot about writing? Getting a little closer. Expertise certainly plays a role in owning your space. Google knows how to run search. But Google’s expertise, and the fact that it employs thousands of brilliant people, are still a bit indirectly related to the fact that people EQUATE search with Google.
- Getting it done. Yes. I think this is what Seth Godin calls ‘shipping.’ For writing this means – doing the work, producing good – tho’ not necessarily the best – material. Many people think that Google is not the very best search engine. Sometimes the results of a Google search are bloated, ugly, irrelevant and downright crazy. But it ALWAYS produces. Something. You can count on Google for that.
- Focus. Yes. If you look at the basic Google search page, it’s as clean and spare as a meditation chamber. There’s only one focal point on that page, and that’s the search box. If you’re paying attention you’ll notice other functions and links (in smaller font), but the thing that dominates the page is the search box. And THAT’s the area that Google dominates. Did you know that Google also provides email service, document sharing, photo editing and a whole host of other services? But those areas are not what ‘Googling’ is about. Google doesn’t OWN email, doc sharing or photo editing. Google OWNS search. What does that mean for writer wannabe me? It means I need to focus – and perhaps even define what type of writing I want to be known for. “Writer” is a huge term, encompassing fiction and non-fiction, print (books, mags, journals, newsprint), web (sites, blogs, forums) advertising (marketing copy), probably other areas as well. It wouldn’t be possible to OWN all of it. In order to dominate, I would have to pick one area of focus. That doesn’t necessarily mean give up everything else. But to dominate, I think you have to choose a narrow area and make it your top priority area.
- Spreading the word. Yes, in effect, marketing. Tell your tribe, recruit your tribe to tell all their friends, allies and supporters and have THEM tell all of their friends, allies and supporters. Make it viral. Go guerilla. Evangelize! Joe Konrath is evangelizing a new way for writers to make their way, tying self-publishing and e-books and viral marketing together to get his work published. He’s made great money off of e-books that he publishes and makes available for as little as $1.99 a piece. (Will Konrath-ing become a new term?) Today, he shared a guest post by Scott Nicholson – who will try to organize a flash (virtual) mob at 3pm US Eastern to generate buzz for his new book. What if that could work? Wow – a crazy new idea that puts power in the writers’ hands. Might be interesting to check out the results live on Scott’s blog (Or go to Amazon and check out the book)
- Thinking crazy thoughts. Do a Google News search of . . . Google. You will see one crazy list of stories. It’s crazy to do business in China – they’ll censor you (or make you self-censor)! Google did. It’s crazy to stop doing business in China! That’s like throwing in the towel. Google did. In the writing arena, Joe Konrath’s ideas and Scott Nicholson’s ideas – are crazy enough that they might work. To OWN your space you’ve got to think crazy thoughts (like ‘I’m gonna own this space!’) You’ve got to try to be the agent of change in your space, the driver of evolution. What drives you crazy in your space? How could that be changed? How could YOU change it?
- Taking a chance (Taking many chances!). Sometimes the thing that holds us back is wanting everything to be just right before we share. But sometimes, putting our work product out there – imperfections and all – is the BEST way to learn. Take a chance. Put it out there. (Google does.) Then LISTEN. Take in the feedback, savor it, good or bad, and think about it. Employ your expertise. Guess what? You get a Mulligan! That first effort was your practice shot. Now that you know the lay of the land, now that you’ve gotten your customers’ or audience’s feedback, now that you’ve thought about it and incorporated what makes sense, try again. And again. Until one day, you wake up and your name is in the dictionary.
Do you own your space? What would it take to own your space?
Would love to hear your thoughts.
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p.s. – thought I’d share a peek at the 2025 edition of Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary:
Ami [verb]. 1. to inspire others, esp. via storytelling, to take a chance or to demonstrate courage and risk-taking. 2. to teach the value of courage and pluck via stories. 3. to cause a paradigm shift for a reader via storytelling.