I’ve been contemplating one of my Groundhog Day Resolutions today: “figuring out how to be a full-time writer and content creator”. I like the idea more and more. I’ll still get to make things so what I’ve learned up to now will not go to waste. However, it means establishing myself in a new niche. I could just jump on in and flounder around for a while, but I have a preexisting commitment to a personally important project. Therefore, it makes sense that I establish the new niche while maintaining my old one.
Serving the Audience
There have been a few new topics that I’ve been interested in writing about: motivation, relationships, and real-life stories. Motivation probably can fit in with the Productivity writing, as it is one of the assumed prerequisites for wanting to be productive in the first place. I already blog about this topic indirectly under Introspection too. The two new topics, relationships and real-life stories, are a little different because they are not about me or my direct experiences, but are about other people. Much of what I write about now uses myself as the reference point for discussion, because the only person who might get embarrassed is me; no one else is likely to get hurt or feel under the spotlight. I also can safely use my experiences as the basis for drawing whatever conclusions I have, so long as I am clear that this is where they’re coming from.
There’s a voice in my head that is telling me that when I start to write about other people, I need to keep this content separate from what you’re reading right now here in the main site and feed. There are several assumptions that I’m making:
- Assumption 1: People are subscribed because of the productivity and process investigation, and skim through the occasional article on whatever crazy thing is on my mind.
- Assumption 2: Adding content outside of this is somehow not desirable, because it further clouds the nature of the content on the website.
p>These assumptions have constrained my writing in the past several months, as I’ve struggled both with my own identity as a creator and freelancer. I also know that I get a lot of traffic from productivity-oriented websites. More recently, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that I should just write about whatever happens to be on my mind, just like the old days, and just try to entertain and inform as I indulge my whims. The reason behind this conclusion is pretty simple: writing something is better than writing nothing. But even that statement requires contextualization; my value system tends to emphasize the production of anything interesting over the production of the right things. And from a marketing and branding perspective, writing about a multitude of topics just clouds “my online identity”, which is bad when it comes to helping consumers make the decision whether they are interested in reading or not. Ideally, my writing would convey a clear message with an identified need, focus, dream, and vision of the future. Therefore, it makes some sense to metaphorically create a new product line for stories and reporting, a spin-off if you will, to neatly contain my journalistic intentions. This keeps the main niche “safe” by not muddling with it, allowing the new niche to develop its own following while drawing on the existing associations of the parent brand.
The other approach is to not worry about “packaging content for the efficient consumption by market segments” and just assume one thing: continuity trumps categorization. That continuity is me, my voice, and my perspective. This presumes–and I feel kind of embarrassed to even suggest this–that the reason people are here is because they just like reading about what’s on my mind, and that is enough. If that’s the case, I could write about anything I want, so long as I maintain the continuity in whatever way makes sense. For me, I think that comes down to the core beliefs that I have: sharing inspiration where I find it, documenting what I’ve learned, and being supportive of anyone who is trying to make a go of it. I really don’t write about productivity at all: I write about people who happen to be trying to be productive. What’s interesting to me is the motivation behind the productive urge, which is one reason why I want to start collecting more stories. Creating the tools that allow people to be more productive, myself included, is really an exercise in creating our own life stories.
However, not all stories have any relevance to anything. For example, today I heard a good one while hanging out at Starbucks, where someone was complaining about how she hates it when someone doesn’t leave the towel in the bathroom after taking a shower. I nodded in agreement, but then I realized that there was an variation in domestic household operations at work here: some families share one towel. You’re clean coming out of the shower after all. This was news to me, as my family has always had separate towels for each individual in the house. We took an impromptu poll, and apparently the “One Household, One Towel” rule was not uncommon in the very small set that we were able to sample. The very idea of a single-towel bathroom seems incredible to me, as I personally like my towel to be my own. My sister would probably agree, because she goes to great lengths to ensure her own towel is fluffy and maximally dry; she would become very upset if someone else used it “by accident”. But I digress…the point I’m trying to make is that this little side trip into communal toweling has nothing to do with what I topically write about. It’s just interesting to me. The “gracious host” in me imagines people who are patiently waiting for that software update to the Emergent Task Timer Online going out of their gourd every time they read a detailed article about how sharing towels is OK, but sharing facecloths is not (FYI: I am just taking a stand here on that issue). If he’s got the time to write about stupid towels, he certainly could be updating something USEFUL instead…
Taking a Poll
So I’m torn. I’m leaning toward NOT worrying about branding as the motivating force for a redesign, but nevertheless creating a separate content blog (accessible through this site, of course) for story collecting, random encounters, road food, and visits to new places. Some existing categories would also move, such as the Encounters category. If anyone has any strong opinions or insights into what the best approach would be, I’m all ears. The issues boil down to this:
- Will moving non-productivity, non-design, and non-business content out of the main blog create a more optimal experience for both readers and myself?
- Is “managing my personal brand” really so important that it dictates how I organize the content on this site?
- Is it more important to write for myself or write for the audience?
- What is the more worthy goal: creating a focused blog experience which can serve as a content platform for more commercial activities, or just creating what’s on my mind? This issue is really which is more important to me: success/commercialization (freedom) or writing for the sake of creating “good” content (recognition). Both are important, so maybe I am actually looking for a means to do both.