I’ve always struggled with the balance of a steady writing practice and writing to fit a niche. I believe it’s one of the reasons this site hasn’t really “taken off” in a take-over-the-internet-blow-up-and-make-money sense. That’s ok, because not everything is about money.
The other part of the equation is pride. The desire to see your work influence large numbers of people. For influence to grow, readership has to grow. It’s easier to be found, to market, and to grow your numbers by having a specific niche.
So the loose niche of this site is personal development through story structure and faith, I write about a lot of other things. Go deep enough here and you’ll find posts on fitness, food, business, travel, and much more. When you’re growing, this is bad. Readers come to your site for one topic, then are confused when they find a variety of topics. Readers leave, site stays under 500 subscribers.
The problem I have (and you may too), is I’m interested in all these different topics!
If we were to “storify” this challenge, I’d be traveling in all kinds of different directions. I’m climbing a rock face, only to get halfway up, see a better/interesting/easier route, rappell down a bit, then head up that route. Then repeat the process again, and again.
All of this makes for an interesting climb, but a very slow pursuit of the summit.
There are people with generalist blogs who get to write about whatever they want. Seth Godin and Tim Ferriss always come to mind for me. A new addition to the list is Matt Mullenweg, creator of WordPress and CEO of Automattic. I highly recommend all of their sites because they’re so diverse and interesting.
Here’s the kicker, a reason all of these guys are able to write on a variety of topics. They started companies, changed industries, wrote specific books, experimented on themselves, and more. They are all very interesting, making things happen, and sharing with others. So when they start sharing about odd foods, seersucker suits, or what’s in Matt’s bag, people still want to know what they’re up to.
Ok, so I haven’t done any of those things, at least not to worldwide acclaim. If you’re interested, here’s my sketch binge, ultra-running tips, and book excerpt. Again, a wide variety, but nothing to throw and flag in the ground and say “This is me, this is what I’m doing until it fails/succeeds wildly”.
If you’re going to write about everything, you have to attach something interesting to the words. Thankfully, that interesting thing is you! A courageous, curious, vulnerable you.
Steady, general writing will pay dividends down the road, but I’m proof it’s a much longer road. This has been a four year habit in the making, averaging a post per week, with significant chunks of no posts for a month (like recently). Breaks happen because I feel guilty about general topics, then guilty that I haven’t posted in six weeks. And it snowballs.
I read an essay of Matt’s which triggered this post, about halfway through the piece. Matt treats his blog as catch-all for his thoughts, ideas, and photography. It works and he has readers because he’s Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress and BDFL of Automattic. He likes BBQ, eats out a lot, works out when he can, takes thousands of pictures, and types on a goofy keyboard.
To round this out, here’s the big takeaway I have in mind. There’s a cyclical nature to writing, creating, and doing epic $h!t. Writing inspires my creativity to go do, and being out in the world with an eye for sharing lessons and stories inspires more writing. You can’t have one without the other. I can’t keep writing about a life that I’m not living, chances I’m not taking, relationships that aren’t wonderful and messy.
Life is interesting if you’re willing to go out and live it, and share what you’re learning with people. You may not make a million dollars, but you’ll probably have a lot of fun and change a few lives along the way, including your own.