Forget About Being Niche. Just Be You.
I used to feel pressure to identify my writing "focus". What's my specialty? What subject am I a thought leader in? The answer, of course, is to JUST BE ME, and here's proof.
I just discovered a super cool new feature on Substack and wanted to share it with you, since it gave me some fascinating (and very encouraging) insights into how my writing is landing in the world and who the Writers’ Haven by Christine Wolf Substack community is.
Here’s a screenshot from my Substack writer dashboard, showing me a bit about the other Substack publications Writers’ Haven readers subscribe to:
When I first saw this list, my heart skipped a beat, since every one of those publications reflects a personal interest and passion of mine:
Letters from an American
Heather Cox Richardson’s prolific and consistent output of American history as it relates to modern-day life is, frankly, beyond comprehension. A passionate chronicler of our current political landscape, she shines a light on the paths our country has taken, offering insights that help us better envision and consider our future.
Cali Bird’s compassionate approach to the craft of writing encourages writers to note how they (we!) often beat ourselves up and undermine our own power. Like me, she previously had a 9-5 job in the corporate world, so she knows (and appreciates) the writing life even more.
Roxanne Gay’s to-the-point style, as noted by Time magazine, is “never cold or sterile. She directly confronts complex issues of identity and privilege, but it's always accessible and insightful."
Cheryl Strayed’s Dear Sugar
Cheryl Strayed’s empathetic and unapologetic writing and advocacy about feminism, self-worth, and radical acceptance help readers and writers alike feel validated and seen.
Elle Griffin’s transparency builds authentic community as she openly moves through her writing process with readers.
Agents and Books
Kate McKean’s unflinching honesty about the world of publishing (and dyslexia, which I also have) demystifies the industry for writers of every level of experience.
In each of these six publications, I see glimmers of the kind of writer I strive to be:
unapologetic (unless I’ve screwed up, in which case, I bend over backwards)
Just Be You
I’m not a history professor like Heather Cox Richardson who writes Letters from an American, but I’ve written a biography about two former members of the U.S. Congress and reflected on their the legacies they’ve left (the book comes out this year or early 2024).
I’m not a Buddhist like Cali Bird who writes Gentle Creative, and I’m not always able to catch myself when I have imposter syndrome or tear my own work/self-image to shreds, but I’m working on it every day.
I’m not as well-versed in feminist history as Roxanne Gay who writes The Audacity, (nor do I hold an MFA), but I’m passionate about strengthening and using my voice, and use it, like she does, to raise awareness.
I haven’t experienced breakout success like Cheryl Strayed who writes Cheryl Strayed’s Dear Sugar, but like her, I have a marathon mentality, an open heart, and a willingness to talk about the hard stuff.
I’m not currently a fiction writer like Elle Griffin who writes The Novelist, though I wrote a middle-grade novel and I love taking readers and clients behind the scenes in my writing process.
I’m not Kate McKean who writes Agents and Books, but I admire how much she empowers readers by sharing what others previously insisted on keeping “under wraps”.
In other words, though I’m unlike every other write, I’m actually like every other writer in some way. Look hard enough, and you’ll find those common threads. And what I really appreciate about this new little audience insight tool by Substack is seeing that my readers seem to see those threads, too.
The act of writing is HARD. Deciding to become a full-time writer at the age of 40 was the most unnerving-yet-rewarding thing I’ve ever done for myself. And as a corollary, writing has unquestionably connected me with more human beings than anything I’ve ever done in my life.
Hearing from a reader who tells me they feel understood or less alone after reading my work will never cease to make me cry with gratitude because I know what it’s like to hold my breath while carrying unspoken feelings. I know what it feels like to think I’m the only one who feels a certain way or experiences the world in a unique fashion.
Writing connects us in countless ways at different times for different reasons, so to be there with my words when someone needs them most? What an honor. What an absolute honor.
I used to feel pressure to know what my writing "focus" was.
"What's my specialty?"
"What subjects am I a thought leader in?"
"What’s my niche?”
The answer, of course, is to just be ME. To show up. To be honest. To offer what I can, in the moment.
I will always smile and shake my head in wonder when I hear from readers who tell me they feel seen — especially after I write something that feels scary, unconventional, or risky to share.
When I get out of my own way and let myself be human and vulnerable and messy and real, THAT’s where the deepest and most authentic connections happen.
THAT’s when I know I’m writing what I’m meant to share.
Still, as I work every day on my own memoir — mining my memories, reliving my experiences, and reflecting on how they’ve all shaped me — I keep my readers in mind. What might others take away from this? What have I learned that might help someone else?
After nearly 15 years as a full-time writer and student of the craft, I’ve come to learn that, when I let my sincere and earnest intentions guide me, my words flow. If I try to squeeze myself into a framework that isn’t who I am at my core, the writing process (not to mention my self-esteem) takes a nosedive. And, just what does a nosedive look like for a writer?
An empty heart. A lack of ideas. Forced language. Unfinished pieces. Hesitancy to share. Silence. Blank pages. Declining readership.
But, for this first year I’ve been on Substack, my readership has consistently grown as I’ve written directly from my heart:
I’m grateful that you’re here as I show up to share what inspires me, what I struggle with, and what I learn from it all.
Thank you for letting me be human on the page. Thank you for reading ALL the different sides of me. Thank you for letting me show you my process. Thank you for sharing this writing journey.
Most of all, thank you for the undeniable proof that raw honesty can be, in itself, a very worthy “niche”.
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Hi, I’m Christine Wolf, a writing coach helping writers of all levels of experience. Register here for my FREE, drop-in-anytime, silent, virtual write-ins.
I love this so much. I did an IG post a few weeks ago talking about how "I'm not a niche," because I've always struggled with this concept of writing in a single niche. I love how Substack has given me the tools to not just stick with a single niche but hone my different niches and give my audience options. I may have to use this post in an upcoming post of my own :-)
I think you’re a very niche person, over by dare at in the “fronchroom” and even at the Jewels!