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To Niche Or Not To Niche

The Forisha family dressed as PJ Masks characters for Trunk or Treat.
The Forisha family dressed as PJ Masks characters for Trunk or Treat. Parenting, holidays, and family life are heavy niche topics on my blog.

At this point, I have listened to, read, and otherwise researched a plethora of marketing strategies on how to build a platform for my writing endeavors. If there’s one piece of advice that I find most frequently, it’s to define your niche.

A niche is a specialized segment of the market for a particular kind of product or service. In the context of writing or other media creation, it’s defining your topic. For example, if you are starting a YouTube series and you begin creating videos on food topics like cake decorating or easy meals for busy families, the advice is to stick with that (or create multiple channels to showcase other topics). If you are starting a TikTok profile and you want to feature movements, like dance, yoga, or other movement-based activities, you should stick with that. If you’re writing a blog and your primary topic is parenting, then that’s all you should write about. If you don’t define your niche and stick with it, then the creator should ask: Am I writing (or creating) content for me or am I writing for you, readers?

I reflect on this often as I plan out content and try to figure out the best use of my time without losing focus the point of all of this is to showcase my writing so I can ultimately publish my books traditionally. Upon reflection, I suppose I’m writing for me, but also for readers like myself, readers whose interests go beyond a single niche. (I also share these behind-the-scenes contemplations because I know ultimately, I will succeed, but I always find the journey more interesting and inspiring than the final destination).

I started this blog for several reasons: intellectual stimulation while initially transitioning to being a SAHM, a creative outlet, a desire to give Maggie a voice and raise awareness of her condition, and a reason to geek out about books and other literary topics since I was no longer in the classroom. I also wanted to write about education topics because of my professional background and because I missed my career. I wanted something tangible to point to when the dust of the pandemic settled and if I decided to go back to a traditional job (because the professional world often does not consider being a stay-at-home parent a resume-worthy job despite how much professional skills cross over into the professional world, like coordination, organization, planning, prepping, executing, delivering, and so on). So, to be perfectly honest, I started it for me.

Yet, as time moved on and my goals shifted from a hobby project to today, I no longer view it as a passion project that I would want to put aside when this season of being home with my kids is over. I see it today as a showcase of my writing, an opportunity to build community, a foot in the door of the publishing industry, and more than anything, a potential for self-employment as a writer entrepreneur. The blog is mine to shape and deliver as I see fit, which goes back to the self-reflective question of what that content should be.

However, I still struggle with defining a niche. My hesitation with that generalized and frequently touted advice is I don’t want to only write about one topic (or under the umbrella of a generalized topic, like parenting or education). I may want this to be a stepping stone into the business of writing, but I view it as pigeonholing myself to exhaust a topic. That approach simply feels limiting when my love of writing comes from the freedom of a blank page to go anywhere and explore anything. If I collect the books that I have yet to write, they will be scattered throughout a bookstore, not confined to a single shelf, to a single topic, and definitely not to a single genre. Why should I then confine my blog to a single topic when my end goal is so much wider?

I spent some time analyzing my blog analytics. This essentially means reviewing what readers of my blog prefer to read. Hands down, the most popular posts on my blog are those about Maggie. Maggie's posts, especially when we’re in the midst of some medical crisis, transitioning with medications, or dealing with educational or behavioral challenges, have the most readers because so many people love Maggie. Writing about Maggie has helped me process her medical journey and writing Magnolia in November was especially cathartic. The most frequent feedback I’ve received about my memoir from readers was how it made them ugly cry and I can assure you, I ugly cried plenty while writing it and living it. Yet, writing about Maggie is not how I want to build a writing career. It is emotionally draining to write about our challenges with Maggie too frequently. I hope that Magnolia in November and Raising Unicorns (work in progress—self-help book for parents of medically complex children) help other families, and I will write updates on Maggie from time to time, but defining my niche as medically complex or as a disability awareness advocate is too emotionally taxing to do it exclusively. I’ll write about it because I think there are readers out there who need to read it because they’re raising their own medically complex unicorn and those posts are for them, but I want to write about other topics as well.

This leads me to my biggest umbrella niches: parenting and education. I write about parenting because I am a stay-at-home mom homeschooling her Pre-K-aged daughter, raising a toddler, and caring for a medically complex 1st-grader. I write about education because I was a teacher for a decade, I have a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy, I am actively involved in our local district and school as a parent in assorted committees, and I homeschool our middle daughter. Both of these topics consume my general world and are the brunt of my content. I suppose if I were to narrow down my niche, these would be it. Honestly, they are the majority of my posts and will continue to be so, but I don’t just want to talk about parenting and education exclusively.

I write a lot. It is my reprieve from the day-to-day. It is my creative outlet. I juggle writing projects depending on what I’m feeling and where I want to focus. I’ll scribble poems in my journals while sitting in the parent parade line at school or write flash fiction (or non-fiction, depending on the day) in a flurry of kids playing independently. I am currently fleshing out five point-of-view characters for my first attempt at a Young Adult novel which I will draft for this year’s NaNoWriMo (search NaNoWriMo on my blog search for a previous year’s post of this annual challenge). This book will be part Breakfast Club, part psychological thriller, and part commentary on society. I even want to write about my own opinions about current events, even if my opinions cost me readers since opinions can be polarizing. At the same time, I also acknowledge if I wanted to write about something entirely noncontroversial and otherwise safe for any reader, I’d limit my content to food or crafting with kids.

Whatever the content, whatever the topic, my end goal in my work is to make the receiver FEEL something. I believe emphatically that the purpose of art in all of its forms (including writing) is to explore the human experience, and that includes the day-to-day stuff, the technical topics, the umbrella topics, and literary geek posts.

What I want to say to my readers is thank you for reading along with me. After much self-reflection, I’m going to forego the “define your niche” advice and continue to write about whatever I feel called to write. If there are topics you wish to read more of, please comment below.

PJ Masks trunk or treat display.
Homemade Trunk or Treat display was made with an old school science fair board, paint, colored character worksheets, construction paper and lots of markers. Kid-designed and kid-semimade.

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Oct 27, 2023
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Part of why I became a writer is that I love thinking about and exploring so many things. It's a practice that follows me and grows with me as I evolve through life. In my opinion, the niche advice is for writers who want to see their work fit into a target audience, which is then sellable to traditional publishing. While I also yearn for that traditional publishing route, I'm not willing to force my writing into a box for the sake of getting there. Thanks for sharing your story, and good luck on your many projects!

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