I’m like you, I want to be a better writer. Also, like you, I read articles by writers better than myself because I’m looking to learn. I’ve read countless points of advice for being a better writer and blogger. One thing I’ve read consistently was pick one niche (or a couple) and stick to those. Write and write until you become the (or ‘a’ ) top person in your niche. The consistency will create a repeat audience and you can leverage those followers to grow.
I can’t argue with that, it’s solid advice. You will grow your follower base that way. But will you truly be a better writer?
There’s a recurring meme in most self-help circles now a days. The meme says get out of your comfort zone. It seems to be widely accepted now a days. Many say it’s a great way for personal growth. I did a quick search in the Google machine and look what I found:
343 MILLION HITS!!
Apparently the idea of getting out of your comfort zone is popular. People in all facets of their life are looking for ways to get out of their comfort zone. They’re looking to grow by doing this. They’ll try this in relationships, work, exercise, family, school. Just about everything you can imagine people will apply this idea to….
Stick to your niche(s) and write over and over and grow your base. Lather, rinse, and repeat. I took this advice when I first started writing on this platform, but now I’m rethinking it. Seriously rethinking it.
Benefits Of Stretching Beyond Your Niche
Improved writing ability:
If you can develop the ability to write about anything, you’ll improve your ability to write about the niche you’re comfortable with. The more you write about unfamiliar topics, the more you’ll learn about them. As you learn more, you may be able to apply this new point of view to your original topic, making your content more robust.
As you become comfortable with more topics and the way to write about them, something interesting will happen. You’ll be able to connect dots in a way you never could before. Lines will run from your new writing topic to your niche, creating new and interesting content. James Altucher calls this “idea sex.” A combining of two seemingly unrelated ideas into something new.
You’ll also be able to differentiate yourself from others in your chosen topic of comfort. Want to know why? You’ll be able to see the niche in a whole different view, because you’ve seen and written about other things. It’s like a doctor who is also a lawyer. Two seemingly different skill sets, but if you combine the two the person becomes an entirely different animal.
Improved Content And More Things To Write About
“Dig the well before you’re thirsty” — ancient Chinese proverb
I want you to think about the topics you usually write about for a second. Now, think about all the things you’ve written about this topic. Ask yourself honestly, how much can you possibly write about this topic? How many things can you write that don’t repeat in some way or another? Repeating isn’t necessarily bad, new people constantly see your stuff, so they don’t know.
But you know. You’ve seen everything you’ve written. How long can you go on doing this? In the end, you write for yourself as well as others.
When you climb out of the hobbit hole your niche is located in, you get new content. When you find yourself in the lather, rinse, repeat cycle, escaping into a new topic area can be freeing in an amazing way. Nothing can be worse than boring yourself. Yes, you can bore the hell out of yourself. And you can’t leave the room to get away from your boring ass self either. You bring you with you wherever you go.
Dig the well before you’re thirsty. Start slowly exploring into different writing areas before you get stuck or run out of ideas for your niche of comfort. This will keep a fresh flow of content coming into you before you hit a wall. As you write about more topics you’re less comfortable with, it will require you to think more. As you think more, you’ll generate more ideas and things to write about. Eventually the new topic may become another niche of comfort.
I’m going to take a wild guess as you read this. When you write, you want other people to read your work. That was some Sherlock Holmes type deduction right there wasn’t it? Now, you can take the traditional route and write in volume and quality to climb to a space on your niche mountain. That’s a reasonable path and it works for many.
However, you can also take a side path. Chase a new audience, who likes reading about another topic. As they see your face more and enjoy your writing, they may begin to follow you into your original niche. Then again even if they don’t, they’ll still be part of your audience. You’ll grab a group of readers who may have never bothered to click on your work previously.
Cross Over Ability
“Curators apply our internal editorial standards to evaluate stories for distribution. When your story meets our editorial standards and is found to be high-quality, a curator will distribute it through topics, which power the personalized recommendations on Medium. For example, if you write a story about the ethical implications of machine learning and it meets our editorial standards, it would be distributed in the Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Philosophy topics, reaching the legions of readers who follow any of those topics on their Medium.com homepage, Medium apps, and Medium emails. (90 million unique readers visit Medium each month.)” — Medium help page
When you write things on Medium, occasionally you’re lucky enough to get picked up by curators. The curators will push your story out on the front pages of topics on the Medium website. When you get picked up by curators, you get a boost in eyes looking at your writing. A big boost sometimes. Sounds wonderful doesn’t it?
Now, what if you can get picked up by multiple curators? Sounds even better doesn’t it?
As you write about things outside of your niche and develop multiple angles of content, you can combine these into one piece. Now instead of writing just an article about relationships, you can add history and technology into the mix for example. If you do this well, now your story gets published by curators into the topics of relationships, technology, and history. As you can see with my story below, I combined the topics of religion, culture, philosophy, and history. Four different audiences for a single story.
As a child I remember watching this documentary called Ghostbusters. The documentary revolves around a horrific attack on New York City by a giant marshmallow man. In the documentary a doctor, Egon Spengler, warns about the dangers of crossing electrical streams. Screw what Egon says, cross the streams!
Just remember, if you choose this approach, it has to be good. Just don’t combine things for the sake of combining them. I could jam candy corn and pea soup into a turkey breast, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be appetizing. Don’t just blend to blend. Take time and write or read about each topic to familiarize yourself. Then you’ll be able to blend topics like you’re a bartender mixing drinks.
The Whole Point Of This Rambling Article
I’m not saying by any means to abandon your niche — far from it. I’m saying experiment with different forms and topics. Just like you would in every other aspect of your life besides Medium and blogging. Medium is a great platform for this experimentation as well. The site is broken down into topics, so you can research how writers in other topics work their magic.
I’ve also taken up my own advice. I’ve advanced into new streams of writing, honestly some things I’m uncomfortable writing about. In particular, I’ve wrote a couple stories about love. My wheelhouse is history and economics, so that’s 360 degree turn for me. I even tried writing about current events and charities too, that’s far from history as well. I won’t abandon my niche, but I will consistently try new things and see what I learn. Eventually I may add another niche to my standard writing catalog.
I plan to continue doing this from time to time into the near future. Hopefully, I learn a thing or two along the way. I’d recommend you give this approach a shot as well. What’s the worst thing that can happen, you write a bad article? Somebody writes, “You suck” in your comments. The cost of failure is pretty low with an experiment like this. However, the benefit of learning and reaching a new audience is always possible. The reward is much greater than the risk. I think it’s worth trying, so much so that I’m doing it myself.
Good luck on your upcoming experiments! Let me know if you’ve strayed from your niche and tried something new. How’d it work out and did you learn anything?