I pulled up to a red light on my motorbike and sat beside several other motorbikes at the front of a long line of cars. One of the other bikes, which is often the case, took off through the red light, anticipating that the light was about to change green. Another motorbike followed suit, then another, then a car, then two, then – zoom – zoom – zip – zip – whoosh – whoosh – cars, one after another whipped through the light which NEVER changed. So there I was, sitting at a red light when vehicle after vehicle passed me by right through the red. I started to wonder if any of the cars approaching the red light would actually stop since it was red, after all. Eventually both lanes stopped and waited another twenty seconds until the light actually turned green.
Even for Malaysia, where vehicles whip through red lights with great frequency, this was a strange situation. It really showed the power of following the crowd. Everyone else is doing it; why not? One little flinch through red can trigger an avalanche of followers, regardless if it is breaking the law or not.
So what does this mean for indie authors? Well, if we cast aside the illegal aspect of this incident and just focus on the power and pull of following others, we might have ourselves a good little object lesson.
Many writers are eager to jump on the bandwagon of other people’s success by emulating their style, or writing in popular genres, or mimicking others actions. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, per se, unless that’s not your passion. If vampires are hot and you are passionate about vampires, well go for it. But if you want to write historical fiction but find yourself wanting to write alien steam-punk just because “it’s hot,” then you are following the crowd through the red-light. I always keep reminding myself to simply be myself. Be the original that I am. Write what I’m passionate about, regardless of what others will think.
It’s okay to sit patiently at a red light. After all the light will eventually turn green and your time will come.