Am I a writer? What’s my niche?
At the age of 40, I was lying in a hospital bed. I had a brain tumor. I could no longer walk or work. I felt like this could be the end of my life. At that point, I had two regrets.
- I wished I had gotten disability insurance to provide for my family. I had gone from a healthy paycheck to no paycheck.
- I had always wanted to finish my trilogy of books. I wanted to tell a story. Now that story would die with me.
How to find your niche
We’ve all been there. We stare at the blank page. It might be Google Docs. It might be Microsoft Word. It might be Notepad or Text Edit.
The blinking cursor mocks us.
What do you write about? The blank page demands an answer.
You are a complex person. You have many interests. Which one do you write about?
As a beginning writer, you don’t have a niche. You aren’t an expert in anything. You don’t have a specialty yet. You aren’t known for anything.
I’ve been there. Heck, in some ways, I’m still there.
I’ve heard people say that you’re an expert being who you are. Sure, but people don’t know you yet. You may not know you yet.
Finally, you have to just start writing.
Did I miss that part? Write about what, exactly?
Well, anything, really.
You can write about Underwater Basket Weaving, if that floats your boat. What is your interest right now?
Right now, without a niche, you don’t know two things:
- What people will like to read?
- What you like to write?
There needs to be a balance there. You can spend all your time and energy chasing either, but you need a synergy of both. You need to find something you like to write that has an audience.
How do you find that?
Lots of trial and error, my friend.
The sooner you start, the sooner you will find your niche. Your “home.”
Write about your current obsession for a few articles. See if it gets any traction. See if it still floats your boat in a few weeks. See if you get fans or spark a discussion. See if there’s harmonious vibrations with your soul, the soul of your readers, and the blank page.
If not, simply move on.
Invisibility power… unlocked!
There is a certain amount of freedom in being invisible. Legions of trolls aren’t waiting to pounce in your comments.
But you also don’t have legions of fans waiting for your next article with bated breath. You don’t have thousands of people waiting to read your newsletter.
Here’s your one shot to experiment. Try out a bunch of different topics while no one is looking. Pick up and put down interests. Try out things that might be cool. Your enthusiasm will infect your writing, and possibly infect some readers.
That’s what every writer wants. They want to be enthusiastic and infectious with their writing.
Readers = Success = Money = ?
That’s for somewhere out there in the future. “How far?” you wail.
That’s the million dollar question. At the end of the day, that’s the question that every writer has to answer. How long do you want to toil in obscurity before you “make it?” For some, that will be days.
For others, that will be years.
For some, that might never happen.
Even after you pass away.
One writer I talked to had a two-year window. She was going to try “this writing thing” for two years. If she put her all into it and didn’t get some kind of results in two years, if she didn’t find success, she was “out.”
That’s as good a milestone as any. Medium says that I became a paying member in December of 2019. That means that I will need to “make it” by December of 2022.
Let the count-down begin!
Is it worth it?
Do you have a story that is burning inside you? You might die if you can’t tell that story?
If so, you owe it to yourself to tell that story. Not for the fame. Not for the money. You may not get either. You owe it to yourself.
If not, you need a different line of work.
Sorry to be brutal, but somebody needs to tell it to you straight. Either do the work you were meant to do or get out now. Please. Don’t waste your life.
I’ve already said at great length that you would make more money at a minimum wage job. You are either willing to do this for next to nothing, or you’re not.
My first month writing on for money, I earned a whopping $0.40. At that point, you need to find different motivations. If it’s not about the money, what’s it about?
If you can’t answer that question, you need to get out. Don’t waste any more time. Get a job a Taco Bell. Become an apprentice at a trade. Don’t waste any more of your precious time.
“It’s not a waste!” you exclaim. Now we’re talking. Tell me why it’s not a waste. If you can answer that question, we are starting to get to the heart of why you write.
But good news!
When you finally hit your groove, the writing becomes easy. When you discover that thing, the writing becomes effortless. Words fly out of your fingertips without even trying. You can spit out an article of 2,000 words without batting an eye. It feels like you’re writing about nothing. For me, that is fiction writing. I can see it all in my head. Now, it’s just a matter of dictation. I write down what I see.
You have a decision to make.
Do you keep writing what you like to write and let the audience find you? Let’s look at the pros and cons. Pro: You can write a lot. Each article you publish is another lottery ticket that might be a winner and catch a reader. You might be able to finish that book you’ve always wanted to write. Con: the audience may never find you.
If the audience does show up, it will be wonderful.
If they never show up, not so much. At least you got some good, free therapy. Maybe you make some good friend and good connections along the way.
There is another option. You can keep switching topics until you find something that “sticks” with an audience.
Keep writing ALL THE THINGS until you find one that people like and you like to write. That’s where the money is.
Of course, there is a danger of becoming a “one trick pony.” I found a writer I really liked on Medium.com. I devoured his articles. Then I stopped reading Medium articles for awhile (about a year). When I finally rediscovered Medium, this writer was still talking about the same topic. A year later!
It made me a little angry, if truth be told. I no longer read his stuff. I avoid his writing when I see his name. I no longer enjoy complaints without a proposal to fix the situation. That’s a hamster-wheel.
Let the audience come to you
We all have different reasons to write. Your reason might be totally different than my reason. That’s OK.
Writing is most fun when you reach a “flow state.” The whole world passes away and it’s just you and the words flying out of you. You know exactly what you want to say. You know exactly how you want to say it.
If you haven’t found this yet, go fish.
Find your passion. Hope people find you. Be good with it either way.
You’ll thank me later.
Take it from the guy who lived in a hospital bed for two months. Don’t get stuck there with any regrets. It makes a horrible situation even worse. Be that wise old person with a smile on your face.
You’ve lived a full life. You’ve told your tale.