Advice From the Pros

Pitch Your Niche

Write What You Love, Love What You Write

A lot of people really like craft beer. But, how many people love it enough to do a crazy 40 Day/40 Pennsylvania Craft Brewery Tour? Most of us enjoy a morning cup of coffee, but how about at 4500 feet in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, off the tourist path? Yes, that would be me.

Writing about both passions, craft beer and specialty coffee, have resulted in my essays being published in national media venues recently. My article about craft beer becomes a treatise on a theology of work. My writing about coffee in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica becomes a piece about a cool place and a kind people and leaving the comfort zone.

Write What You Love

The author Ray Bradbury wrote wisely, “Write only what you love and love what you write.” Because I can afford to pick and choose my subjects, a big part of me finding writing momentum in the last couple of years has been to go deep about what I love and then write about it. Simple advice, but it has made all the difference. I work as a school counselor by day at a high school. Two of my colleagues are also published writers. One writes about fishing and waterways. The other pens science fictions novels. We have all found our niche because we first found our loves.

A niche is an ecological term where a species finds a place in creation to not just survive but thrive. The origin of the word comes from French/Latin word for nest. In our frenetic multi-firework display 21st-century media landscape, it is a challenge to attract and engage readers. We are like hummingbirds with ADD, sound biting our way through the day and night, flitting and fleeting.

Love What You Write

How to get readers to land and settle down in your metaphorical nest? A sustainable strategy is to cultivate a high level of expertise and enthusiasm for subjects that others find intriguing but doing it in a unique and unusual style all your own. Herman Melville wrote, “It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” If you are only going to copy someone else’s style and subjects, such “success” is shallow and unsatisfying in the end.

What is your Unique Writing Proposition (U.W.P.)? What do you think about, spend your money on, or fill your time with? That is what you love.

Here are the interests that I have put into my nest: a love of people and culture expressed through food, drink and travel; a high degree of research and writing chops honed through earning a Ph.D. about adolescent cognitive and emotional development and the college transition (and wrote a book about it); a smidgen of snarkiness tempered by self-deprecation, with a foundation of sincerity in wanting to make the world a better place; a theological and philosophical framework undergirding it all that differentiates me from others; and a sense of humor. That’s my U.W.P.

What’s yours?

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Advice From the Pros, Go Freelance