There’s been a lot of buzz this week about the Pixar story rules being tweeted by Emma Coates (@lawnrocket). But don’t expect a whole new crop of Pixar-like storytellers to suddenly emerge. Knowing what makes a good story, and writing a good story are two entirely different things.
I don’t have a lot of experience with story writing, but I suspect it’s a lot like building great products. You can spend all day reading about how to do user research, how to user test your products, how to write good user stories, and how to work with engineers, but reading isn’t going to make you better at building great products, unless you also add two critical elements: practice and discipline.
You have to practice. You learn by doing. Reading lists of rules can help point you in the right direction, but you won’t learn to apply them until you start doing. There is no shortage of good books, blog posts, and videos out there on how to conduct a usability test, but no matter how much you read or watch, you won’t know how to do one until you do one. Don’t get me wrong. I read a lot. But if you don’t figure out how to apply it, you are just killing time.
You have to have discipline. Even when we know how to do something, too often we don’t do it. How many product managers know they should user test their products but skip it because they don’t have time – even though we know that usability tests save time down the road because they prevent us from building the wrong thing. Or how many times have we made decisions to cut a corner or take the easier route, even though it’s not the best thing for our product or our end-users. GI Joe was wrong – knowing is not half the battle. it’s just the very beginning. It takes a lot of practice and discipline to do the right thing.
I really enjoyed reading the Pixar story rules. But rather than reading the whole list and moving on, I recommend picking one that resonates and start practicing. Figure out how to apply that rule. Work to understand why it works. More importantly, figure out when it doesn’t work. Build practice and discipline around that rule into your daily routine. And only then, move on to the next item in the list.
If you want to master your craft, do the work. Test out the rules. Experiment. Find your own rules. How do you hold yourself accountable to daily practice and being disciplined? Please share in the comments.