Some things take time, patience, and the courage to make a mess
I’ve always been a writer and communicator by nature. Putting thoughts and feelings to words, bringing life to the mundane on paper has always been rather easy for me. The challenge, though, has always been: what exactly is my niche?
Though creative nonfiction is my specialty, it’s tough to nail down exactly where I belong. Who, precisely, is my audience? How do I brand myself? Even after several years, I still don’t know how to answer that. I have vague estimates and some pockets here and there, but my readership is all over the board.
That said: I have taken the pressure off my shoulders and have decided to ride the wave. For those out there that are new to this, fumbling around, trying to find their footing: that could also serve you well.
I’m going to share both what I do and don’t know. Anchoring what I’ve learned is successful for me and what it is I am still eager to learn and develop.
I am developing other niches
I do know that I have a specific knack for narrative features. Taking something I have experienced and making it something relatable for others to connect with. Yet there are so many other areas I want to explore that it’s overwhelming sometimes. For example, I rarely ever discuss the decade-plus I spent in the amusement and tourism industry. It’s rife with exactly the kind of stuff I write most.
I want to write about music, travel, psychology, sex, queerness, and more. Dozens of drafts sit in my Scrivener folders, awaiting a home. I am even slowly developing contemporary fiction. It’s not impostor syndrome that stops me. It’s time and focus: I know very well I can do it all. Just not easily!
In my heart of hearts, I’m a memoirist. There is something so special to me about humans sharing each others’ stories. It’s how we develop culture, bond with like people, and reach across void with those different from us. It’s where storytelling structure originates, where ideas are born.
Because of this, I have hemmed and hawed with the idea of pursuing an MFA. I’ve even gone so far as to start applying but many (expensive) factors have stopped me for now. I haven’t ruled it out for the future but it’s always a maybe thing in the back of my mind.
Mental health can be a barrier
While my emotional health is strong, some factors have rendered me mentally disorganized. After several years of serious struggles, it’s occurred to me I should get evaluated for ADHD. That is a process that is steadily moving forward. It feels good to make progress toward an answer.
The current state of things do not help matters. The pandemic, wars, policy that affects what little future we have — forget trying to live day to day and get the damn thing done. That stuff profoundly affects us and I am no exception to it.
The best thing I can do is stop fighting it. I manage and mitigate what I can, and forgive myself when I don’t have the resources. I enjoy the rains when they come and manage the droughts when they roll out.
I enjoy the freedom
Writing is art. Writers are creatives. We are allowed to experiment, make messes, push boundaries and withdraw from them if we desire. To learn the rules then break them all, simply for the sake of our art.
That has always been my approach to writing, which is often more opaque and stiff than other art forms. Few things bring me as much pleasure as placing someone right into a moment or feeling that actually happened, the way I experienced it. I live for that authenticity and connection.
Because of this, I don’t feel restricted by my public brand. I can be myself, run my socials and platform how I see fit. I want my audience to feel as though my work is created, not manufactured. I can experiment and move forward with what works and pull back on what doesn’t. I have other pseudonyms where I narrow the focus, but they are not a priority. They are practice and exploration of different markets.
Freelancing and creative writing is not easy. It changes often. Why shouldn’t we change with it?