Don’t Pick a Niche — Let a Niche Pick You
Why staying in your lane isn’t good advice
What do you do when you want to write but you’re not exactly sure what you want to write about? Maybe you want to write fiction but aren’t sure you have a favourite genre, or maybe you want to write nonfiction but don’t feel you have an area of expertise? The advice you hear is always simple, “find a niche”, but I say there’s more value in letting the niche find you.
I’ll try and keep this brief, but something has been bugging me.
I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember, like millions of others I’ve wanted to walk into a bookshop and see my book on the shelves, I’ve wanted to write articles, share experiences and ultimately produce work that, well, has some sort of value to someone.
When I started becoming more serious about pursuing writing though I noticed that most people seemed to know exactly what they wanted to write, they were ravenous for crime thrillers, had a hankering for historical fiction, or wanted to write technical papers for their area of expertise.
Having this basic association with one thing in particular acts like a jump start for those people, the seed for their writing journey is sown, they just need to water it.
I wasn’t like that, I wanted to write in many different areas, but I kept hearing the same thing — “pick a niche, stay in that niche”.
I’m a pilot, and I love to write about flying, I’m a trader and a self-taught investor so I love to talk about markets. I relax with fiction, and one day want to finish a novel of some description. Trying to link all this into a common niche is not only difficult, it's damn stressful.
I don’t disagree with the advice to niche down entirely of course, and think overall its actually pretty sound, but I think there’s a key distinction that needs to be made — your timeline.
All in good time
It’s obvious to say that if you haven’t written much before you are probably not going to see huge success off the bat, which is a good thing. You want to be able to spend time just getting to know yourself as a writer, the writing landscape and so you can develop your voice.
Too often people want to get started and just embark on this straight line from A-B without deviation, why would you do that? Entering the writing arena, picking a niche and sticking to it without deviation will do two things.
- Make you very good over time at that niche
- Kill the creative diversity that will make you who you are as a writer naturally
All in due course I say. Sure, if you’re an experienced writer that has dabbled with a few things, go ahead and specialise, you’re probably at the point where you will get a lot of benefit out of it. But if you’re a new writer, try different things, experiment, indulge that wacky idea you’ve tucked away in your brain. This is what makes you, you — and will be what makes your voice unique.
Once you’ve spent that time getting to know yourself and what you like, or what you feel proficient at, then you can decide to niche down and see where it takes you. Just don’t let the process of finding a niche, or the obsession that you have to get it right first time consume you like it seems to consume so many.
Open yourself up to areas of writing you haven’t considered, play about, take your time and let the niche come to you.
Sometimes the journey has different ideas to you
I started out on Medium with the idea of pursuing my novel. Whilst I still want to achieve this, I’ve ended up writing mostly about finance, I started my own publication about something I never thought I’d write about here.
Every now and then I write a bit of travel, or about flying. Why? Because that’s what I’ve come to enjoy here. When you are trying to pursue experience in writing, trying to improve and ultimately trying to earn money from it — you need to be enjoying it.
Writers should be passengers, not drivers. Instead of focusing on the twists and turns of the road ahead, the speed limit and the distance to go, they should be looking either side of the road, awestruck at the scenery, the wildlife and weather.
If you are new to writing, this will take time, and you will ultimately head in a direction you may not have expected. Make peace with this, savour the journey and whatever niche you end up in, enjoy the ride.
“Stay committed to your decisions, but flexible in your approach” — Tony Robbins
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