Today I am writing as soon as I have a thought.
Well, not exactly as soon. I needed to rinse my hair, towel off, make myself decent, and descend to my computer.
But close enough.
I have been struggling with the whole concept of niches. As I mentioned before, I started on social media as marketing and market research for my writing. Not my business writing, that fell into my lap. My personal writing.
It’s true, I have nothing published to date so why would I need to market?
To see if there is interest. Despite the appearance of an impulsive nature and wayward mind, I am risk averse when it comes to putting forth efforts. I think I’ve explained the whole perfectionist thing in a previous post.
One thing that has always gotten in the way of my writing is concern I have nothing to say of interest. Words and I have a long standing relationship. But I lean towards functionalism. If the words I produce serve no function other than purging my thoughts, then there is no point.
Ya, I hear some of you. Purging my thoughts serves a function. But language is developed to communicate. My thoughts and I go way back, like my whole life, so purging serves no function. If what I write does not communicate to another person, no reason to do it.
Which is why I never wrote in a diary. Diary writing always felt pretentious for me. It serves a purpose for some, but for me it never felt like a productive use of my time.
Academic writing is different, and therefore easier. There are several purposes: to make a point based on research and intellectual debate, communicate a new theory, or in general educate the masses.
But creative writing has always fallen into the void of what is the purpose? What is the function? At the end of the day, do I have anything to contribute to humanity’s ongoing monologue?
When I realized writing is something not going away, and trying to avoid writing created a miserable soul deadened creature, I had to approach it systematically like all things anxiety causing.
The blog came first. A jump in the deep end and see if I can swim attempt, which left me floundering and bored quickly. Until I busted the seams of creative language use and found a few loyal audience members by way of co-workers and family members.
Next comes true market research (albeit completely amateur with no methodology). Is there an audience, and who are they?
So I read how to approach marketing on social media, and I was introduced to niches. It’s not a new concept, businesses the world over have specialized and focused in on their target consumer. But social media? Really? I need to decide what subculture for my writing, and then stay there?
And this is where I struggle. I’ve known this struggle with Instagram for years, which is why I post rarely and have never really cared about followers.
People unconsciously arrange themselves in niches, and if you are not in their niche they are less inclined to follow.
And followers/friends mean little to me in social media. Except that if people don’t watch you, no one sees the stuff you put out, and then your research is flawed and provides no usable data.
More importantly, no one reads your writing.
So I had to solve this problem of social media and unlock the mysteries of why marketing people are all agog with the potential. Empirically I understand algorithms. I get how systems do what they do, and I am reaching a much larger understanding of how human behavior lays down upon the system and furthers the driving force.
So ya, I get why marketing gurus say find a niche and stick in it. But I find niche driven behavior boring and stifling to my creativity.
While I was still bumbling around Twitterverse as a newbie, bouncing into things and figuring out how this whole mini-blog, stream of consciousness world worked, I tried to limit myself. I attempted to find a voice to speak to who I thought I wanted listening.
And I was bored. Both with my feed and with what I was writing and saying.
I tried playing games, and it was fun for a little while.
But the more I understand the system, the better I am able to operate within it. What I’m finding is different cultures respond to different tweets, and invariably not everyone will respond the same. And I’m okay with that. I’ve had crazy response to the most random thoughts in my brain, and poems I thought were amazing received little to no feedback.
The more you put yourself out there, the more response and feedback you receive. Which is impossibly hard and easy at the same time. I hesitate, delete, and sometimes just don’t say anything at all. It’s overwhelming. The weight of untold people reading a tweet is crushing.
At the same time, these are not people who see me every day. Liberating an otherwise socially reserved nature to experiment, explore, and challenge who I thought my audience would be as well as my own interests day in and day out.
Which is not niche driven.
I like a myriad of topics and large buffet of information to absorb. And this is how I am choosing to interact with the platform.
I admit I avoid certain conversations and topics. Even if I agree with the sentiment, or some language moves me, I will not respond. Not because I’m not taking in the information. I read everything. I prefer some things about me remain unknown, just as I would rather remain off the radar of certain types of people.
I’m not here to shout from the mountains.
And for those who say they are on Twitter “just being me,” you are in a niche. Look at the feeds followed and likes/retweets. Most will find they like the same things they produce, creating a homogenous group of interests and philosophies.
Just being you is tribal and niche behavior.
However, none of this understanding of niches and Twitter helps me with the one question I am asked repeatedly in writing circles, and with which I will struggle forever. What genre do I write in?
I don’t know.
And I’m not sure I want to be defined by a genre either. Similar to my hesitancy in choosing a career path, or anything that requires high levels of specialization, I think I would become bored if I had to write within a specified form and style all the time.
I understand there are reasons for it. Namely, readers have expectations to be met. So they shop genres that will provide their style of escapism, edification, or time passing.
Yet I find myself bouncing between prose and poetry, essay and aphorisms, all of which do not have an underlying genre. And not because I don’t know genres. I know all the forms, styles, tricks, history of creation, blah blah blah. Maybe what I write is too close and I can’t see the genre. Then again, maybe I just write.
So until I am asked by a publisher what genre my story is, I will keep writing whatever I feel.
And don’t be surprised if my next post or two has nothing to do with writing. There is only so much writing I can do about writing.