Lately, it seems in all walks of life I’m coming across the same message: in order to be successful at something, you have to find your niche. I’d started thinking about this after our work retreat on teamwork a few weeks ago – we’d gone through six “indisputable laws” of successful team building, and the one I’d had the most trouble with was Law 3: The Law of the Niche. It stated that all players have a place where they add the most value, and if you weren’t working in an area you are naturally gifted and passionate about, you’ll never be as successful as if you are. If you try something you’re not naturally talented at, you’ll only ever be a 5/10. But if you work in your niche, you’ll hit 10s every day. This initiated a gaping chasm of worry in the pit of my stomach – all I’ve been trying to do for the last year is dive into things that make me uncomfortable, riding on the hope that repeat exposure will eventually make them totally fine. The idea being presented, though it made complete sense, was entirely contrary to everything I’ve been trying to do. Said chasm was further widened when we were all asked to go around the room stating what our niche was, and were we working in it? “No,” I thought to myself – “but how do I declare that to the boss who just gave me a new position, in front of all my colleagues?”
Initially, I thought my niche was a given – what I love doing at work is working in roles that allow me to be creative. Writing, designing, directing videos, creating advertising, doing radio – these were the sorts of things that were part of my job before the term ended. Now, the majority of my position involves things that aren’t quite such a natural fit: group facilitation, spreadsheets, and reports. Not so within my comfort zone. As we were going around the room, before they got to me, one of my (teacher) coworkers spoke up. “I don’t think of it as teaching,” she said, “I think of it as encouraging people to want to learn.” Now that really hit home. The thought of standing up in front of a class still makes me nauseous, but with practice it’s getting easier. Regardless, I don’t think it will ever be my “niche”. Encouraging others to want to learn however… has my name all over it. I’d always wanted to be a teacher throughout my adolescent life, before I realised I was afraid of public speaking. I’d always adored learning, too – I remember reading Jane Eyre in the hallways one lunch time and being stopped by an impressed English teacher and feeling awfully proud, wishing my classmates could experience this great piece of literature but saddened they seemed more interested in whose party to go to that weekend. I’ve always loved learning, so when I heard it framed like that, I thought maybe I am in my niche after all. I have the freedom to create curriculum, to design slideshows, to write cover letters and resumes and to encourage people to learn. And looking at it like that made me feel a whole lot better.
Finding my niche in the blogging world has been similarly difficult – mainly due to the fact that I refuse to have one! I see lots of blogs evolve from a collection of diverse thoughts into ones that limit themselves to one or two topics, and have their readership skyrocket through the roof. It continually baffles me – if you want to be a “successful” blogger, you have to be confined into a handful of areas if you want to keep the traffic coming back. But I’ve seen it work all the time. Lately, I think I’ve come to the realisation that it’s perfectly okay to write about what I want to write about regardless of whether or not people are going to be interested. If I’m going to lose readers because I write about Star Trek or obscure music one day, so be it. Why keep your passions hidden, and say what you think other people would rather you say? I feel like a bit of an outsider in the blogging world sometimes – everybody seems to know the ins and outs of each others’ lives, because a lot of people tweet and write about the goings-on of their hour-to-hour existence. Trips taken, friends visited, meals created or books read. There’s nothing wrong with this at all – this is how I keep in touch with many people I care about! I guess I just don’t know if my everyday life is really worth writing about. I don’t know if I could be proud to write about the cookies I baked last week, the invitations I printed on Sunday, or the toys I bought for my little cat. Because in reading about what I did, you’re not reading about me. Writing about my thoughts, however? That’s a different story.
This blog is more than a journal. More than a chronological account of what I did over the last few years. It’s an all-encompassing chronicle of my thoughts and opinions, hopes and dreams, loves, loathes, fears and passions on top of the things that filter into my day-to-day existence. I sometimes wish we could all walk around with personal profiles attached to sandwich boards draped over our shoulders. Creative. Animal lover. Nerd. Bookworm. Longs for Home. Artistically Inclined, but Lover of the World of Science. Hopeless Romantic. Wants to Make a Difference. None of us can walk about the world and trust that the right people will just fall into it, but by writing what I do on this blog, I can put myself out there. People can look at my words and see my journey, my story, my thoughts, wonderings, hopes and dreams. Individually, they may be haphazard, random, irregular and about as cohesive as Paris Hilton’s recounting of The Canterbury Tales, but in total, they make up me. All of me. Not one part of me put on show for the sake of “that’s what’ll make me popular”.
I’ll never be a niche blogger, or a subscriber to the rules of “successful” blogging. At any moment of any day, the best friend I haven’t met yet may come across my blog – do I really want my first impression to be one-dimensional? No. I want to be known as someone with real thoughts and feelings, whose heart, interests and passions aren’t caged into a cookie-cutter mould to please the masses. I want to write when I’m passionate about something, which may be three times a week, or may be twice a fortnight. I’d much rather have something substantial than post just for the sake of having something new. I want my blog to be genuine and real, because I want my relationships to be the same. I’m not going to limit myself to the things that’ll increase traffic. I don’t want it if it’s drawn by something that isn’t the real deal. I’ve always been a hearts-on-sleeves kind of girl, and if that means not fitting in, I’ll take it. As the Bard once wisely said, “this above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” In twenty years, these blog posts will be in the archives of history, the commenters will have moved on, and all that remains of this chapter of your life may be the words you wrote. Wouldn’t you rather know, from the bottom of your heart, that they reflected you?