If writing’s your art, you’ll need laser focus.
So the savants say.
“Tape a picture of your ideal reader, right up on the wall next to your workstation. That way, she’s always watching. You’ll be killing the keyboard, making music or making a mess, but one thing’s for sure: You’ll never forget who the whole thing’s for.”
Do you want to be trusted, known as the go-to person? Good, you can be. But, boy, have you got to divest. Simplify.
“Jack of all, master of…”
Tighten. Yes, suck it in, even a bit more. Slice your subject thin, thinner. Onion-skin thin. That’s how you find your true audience. Pick a topic, then lop it in two; be deliberate about your angle, how you saunter back into things. Be calculated, be deliciously predictable, but please, don’t be boring.
That’s what they keep saying. Put yourself in a sweet, small box.
Sit down. Right here.
Find a niche, and wiggle on in.
Like you are a squirrel choosing a hollow tree; like you’re just picking a nice spot to nap.
I am no newborn when it comes to PR, to tribes, to knowing your publics. I believe in the verve of a varied voice. I know that if you try too hard to talk to everyone, you’ll go vanilla, sound scripted, and catch no one. The magic just melts, dribbles faster than a soft-serve cone on the windy beach boardwalk. I know. I have drafted enough speeches, slung the slogans, penned the marketing material that gets postmarked to homes.
But as I turn to this blog, all the books in me, the articles I’m knitting, I wonder: Can I so quickly slap a sticker on the whole of what I hope to do?
Whatever you’re doing, or hope to become, can you name your niche right now?
Right where you’re standing, can you say the what, the how, the who?
Here is a piece of chalk. Can you go draw the circle? I dare you.
Just days ago, two blogs I follow faithfully were slowly wagging fingers—sweetly so, singing the song of the small, the taut, the tight. But as I read them, I feel myself folding, shutting down, wondering how I can possibly fit it all in.
How I can pack so small a carry-on for all the places I itch to go?
Thankfully, the April 29 lesson in my red leather devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, brings me answers.
Or at least, the lens of new questions:
“It doth not yet appear what we shall be.” (1 John 4:3)
“Naturally, we are inclined to be so mathematical and calculating that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing. We imagine that we have to reach some end…but when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy.”
That Oswald continues to slay me on a weekly basis is uncanny. But there again, it’s gone and happened. And so I wonder: Can I embrace the tension between the need for niche and this gnawing not-yet-knowing?
Here is what I want: I want to write about faith. I want to wake the world with fresh metaphors, new frames for helping them see.
My mother in law said it in an e-mail recently: “You make the intangible tangible.”
I wonder: Is this kind of niche enough?
They say that people do not care what you write; they cozy up with your voice.
You become friends, the kind they can summon at any moment—part writer, part genie. You come, your purse stocked with the predictable verbal tics, your baggage, your trusted jokes. But you also bring the new idea you read about last week, and have been mulling over ever since. It’s good and steeped now. It’s hot. You pour it out. You bring questions to them that you’ve half-figured, but you need their help untying the rest.
I want to know…whatever you do…are you ever allowed to just bring yourself, all your wonderful uncertainties—to be more than your niche, your shtick?
I admit there is wisdom in finding some focus, in pulling the horses around for the night, circling your wagons. You need the warm fire of community, something to tuck yourself into. But hasn’t niche become a bit of a buzzword? No matter what your industry, aren’t we all pressured, perhaps too soon, to go narrow? Somehow, the way they say it, niche sounds downright slick and smart: both terrifically tiny and trendy. Never mind its synonyms, that niche is but a softer word for dent, cubby, cavity.
I’ll open the floor here, because I really want to know: How soon can you make the call? How do you stuff yourself in the box, hang the shingle, wear the label?
How can you name something that’s still so small, so new?
Tell me: Is niche something you find…or something that finds you?