Whenever I tell people I’m a writer, a common response is, “Oh, what do you write about?”
It’s an understandable question to ask, but it always leaves me floundering for a second. What do I write about? Maybe the answer they’re looking for is, “I write about relationships.” Or, “I write articles for a business blog.” I think most people assume many writers stick to a certain niche or specialize in writing on a particular subject.
And I know a lot of other writers don’t specialize, either. It sort of flies in the face of the old rule, “Write what you know.” It can be limiting to only write about what you know, to only take on work that revolves around a single subject. Personally, I love learning new things, and I never feel comfortable writing about something until I completely understand it, so when I enter a new territory, I learn everything I can before I start writing.
And of course, within a subject there can certainly be room for growth and learning, but what if you stepped outside of your specialty? A whole new world of writing, jobs, and learning could be waiting for you. If you write about home improvement for a blog and you’ve done that for years, could you translate those clips into a proposal to write for a publication about sailing? Heck yes you can. And you should, if that’s something you’re interested in learning and writing about.
So when people ask me what I write about, I pause and sometimes say, “I write about a whole range of things.” Or I’ll say, “Well, I’m a guest blogger for LendingTree.com, I blog for YourTango’s CelebLove page and wrote a couple of personal essays for the Traditional Love blog, I write a weekly cooking column for my local Patch.com page, I write a bi-weekly column for Patch about keeping your family healthy, I’ve written a number of blog posts for an Occupational Therapy blog out of Cananda, I used to write book reviews and feature articles for my local paper, I’m doing some copywriting for a graphic design website, I regularly contribute to the women’s site MoxyMag.com, I’m working on a novel and short stories, and I keep two blogs: one about writing, and another about personal style.”
I feel confident saying I don’t specialize; rather, I’m versatile enough in my writing to stretch from essay writing, to blogging about home buying and celebrities, to news writing.
Why don’t you need a niche?
If you feel limited by the idea of specializing in one subject, don’t do it. When new writing opportunities come up, or when I have new ideas for stories, I go with them. I do research, learn what I need to learn, and dive in. If you’ve only ever written news pieces for a local paper but you want to start doing restaurant reviews for a magazine, or you want to write about pets or finance or growing organic vegetables, then you should. If your writing is strong enough, it will show potential clients that you have the ability to write and the ability to do it well– that’s what they want to see.
Specializing won’t mean that you will always get the writing gig you hope to get. In fact, I think it’s a better idea to have a wide range of topics under your belt so you’re ready when a potential client comes along who loves your writing. With all the opportunities available to writers today with the internet, I think it’s better to show that your niche is writing well; that tells people you’re versatile and smart enough to do research and stretch yourself.
Do you specialize in your writing, or do you branch out? Share with me in the comments!