Do not refrain from writing if you don’t have a niche
Five Point Checklist to finding your niche
I spend my time reading a lot of writing advice on the internet. Many of them encourage aspiring writers to finding their niche. Being an aspiring writer myself, I have come to realize that having a niche is one of the building blocks of a writing practice. It could help me in streamlining my thought process, give a direction to my brainstorming activities and keep me focused. If I have a niche, it would naturally add more weight to my words and eventually make me a Subject Matter Expert. Having a niche means that the writer has gone in-depth within the subject, there is enough research done and the focus is on quality. The content thus produced is more authentic, trust-worthy and deeply understood.
I struggled for a long time looking for my niche. I asked myself some tough questions like —
What is it that I like the most?
How should I choose — based on my interests or readers’?
What influences me the most?
Or what do I even want to learn about the most?
Also, do I want to write about it? Is it something personal? Or is it something I want to share with the rest of the world?
Unfortunately, finding a niche isn’t an easy task. Here is a five point checklist that I keep in mind while still searching for my niche.
- A constant connection
Your niche constantly engages you. You think about it, you process and analyze that information and have a point of view related to the subject. You do not get bored of it; it is something that you can passionately talk about for a long time. Mayank Austen Soofi has a unique style of staying connected to his niche; mundane daily life of a big city. The renowned author’s blog is a candid spin on ground level portraits of a big city. At the surface, it may appear to be as generic as culture and travel, but he brings out real life stories that make up a megalopolis.
2. A knowledge source
Your niche should reflect your journey with the subject. Either you have spent a considerable amount of time researching and deep-diving the subject or you have some practical advice on it. You need to gain enough knowledge to be confident about your niche. Andy Welfle is writing about wooden pencils since 2012. The author writes about other things too and is not limited by his niche, but this blog seems to be insightful and specific for its 8k+ followers.
3. A shared interest
If it is a topic that serves a community, it is worth considering it to be your niche. You stay on top of things in the realm of that topic. You will find ways to know about the latest developments, interact with other people in the community and soak yourself in that information. Roy O. Olende writes about Research Ops, a subject that is still in its nascent stages in the tech and UX industry. He draws inspiration from not only his professional career but also from the community where he willfully belongs.
4. A specific domain
One of the questions that you should definitely ask yourself when probing for your niche is — how narrow can you get with your subject? The more specific you are, the sharper your writing is. But at the same time, you shouldn’t be losing your subject into nothingness. Ben Thompson at Stratechery writes about what it means to have a niche in the age of disruption. I was particularly intrigued by the point where the author speaks about not only maintaining focus and quality of the topic but also knowing the point at which the niche tends to fragment and starts to disappear.
5. A purposeful project
Writing for a niche must also ensure discipline; more like a project but with a purpose. Julie Powell, author of Julie and Julia makes for an interesting case study of finding purpose. The author’s commitment to write everyday for a year about the chosen subject speaks for her success.What started as an experiment for a niche turned into a published book and later adapted into a movie.
In the words of the famous and renowned author Julia Child,
Niche isn’t a passing interest. It holds your thoughts much longer than that. It also isn’t something that you push yourself into. You can’t force a deadline on yourself to have a niche; it is something that you are either naturally inclined to or develop interest over time. It involves plenty of trials, stagnation and dead ends during the search but also feeds into your personal growth as you allow yourself to immerse in a subject.
Finding a niche can also be an overwhelming activity because of the abundant choices surrounding us. But it is amidst this abundance there is an urgent need to fine tune our expertise.
I also looked up for the dictionary meaning of the word niche.
adj. pertaining to or intended for a segment; having a specific appeal
To begin with, your niche should appeal to something valuable within you. It should lead you to a point of comfort and still keep you motivated to discover more.
There are plenty of things I think about; my experience as a researcher, my teaching style as a yoga instructor, my love for travel and documenting my journeys. There is so much on my mind that I can write about. I often wonder is that a wide spectrum to write about? But if I have a story that I want to tell then why shouldn’t I write about it?
As I analyze my spectrum a bit more, I see the underlying commonality in all these topics — all of them account for my personal experience and my unique journey. I believe it is a good starting point in discovering a niche. Nobody else would feel inside the way I do. And that is something I would describe the best. It would be heart felt, authentic and a true story. Something that I experienced and lived.
It may be a long journey to my destination. I could either refrain myself from writing and keep looking for a niche (which could be an endless and empty search) or I could keep writing, exploring different writing styles, and grow with the process. I would either stick to a topic long enough to become a Subject Matter Expert or I could give enough time to a subject before it starts to fragment (in which case I move on). Either way, I win.
This summer, I have decided to write about Trails of Toronto. Chances are that it will not remain a perennial topic on my blog, but the experiment is about digging into a subject with multiple lenses over a period of time while still staying in the realm of my personal experience.