I've heard a lot in the past about how writers need to pick a niche and market to that niche in order to be successful. Because I'm a contrarian by nature, I write whatever I want to write and can't market at all. I would like to take some time today to clarify these practices.
For a shameful amount of time, I thought the only way to make it as a writer was to be a novelist. This was somewhat reinforced by seeing multiple published novelists come out and say that self-publishing was a bad idea, or that self-publishing would make it harder for you to get published "for real" in the future. So I decided I would grow up to write young adult novels, and I spent years trying and failing to do so. Some of those attempts still exist somewhere on my laptop, and nearly all of them are terrible. After several years of this, I was forced to admit that I do not have the capability to write a novel yet, and that's okay. I do still enjoy reading young adult fiction, but I'm not sure whether I can write it convincingly, because teenagers these days completely baffle me.
In the midst of all this failure to adequately produce young adult fiction, I maintained a strong love for poetry. I've loved it and written it since I was a kid. But I heard from so many people that poetry isn't marketable and doesn't get published anymore. So I resigned myself to the fact that the widest audience my tortured words would ever see was FictionPress.com. I went a couple of years without writing much poetry at all, but I kept reading it, and eventually I always came back to trying to write it. (I like to think I've gotten somewhat better at it over the years!)
In 2015, I started getting more into visual novels, and when I realized that there were free visual novel development tools out there, I decided that maybe this could be my niche instead. So I started writing some. I did in fact finish the script for one, and it's been in development hell for a long while, but I swear to God I will finish it at some point if it fucking kills me. (Realistically it probably won't actually kill me.) But other than that one finished script, none of my other visual novels have really gone anywhere. Just like the regular novels, I'd get an exciting idea and start writing, and then it would die off or turn out to be worse than I thought it was. Again, I started to wonder if this was the right niche for me.
Fast-forward two years, to my move to Portland. I started going to a poetry slam called Slamlandia and meeting amazingly talented poets, and I started seeing chapbooks and zines EVERYWHERE. Whole sections of them stocked at Powells (the best bookstore in the world). Lots of small press publishers that have them. Lots of individual writers and artists selling them on Etsy and other retailers. And I was blown away, because somehow I had never realized that this was even possible. This was self-publishing in a way I didn't even know you could do. And I don't like to make assumptions about other people's feelings, but from my perspective, they all seemed like they liked what they were doing with their writing.
So I thought about that for a while. And I kept thinking about it. And I realized some things.
Around the same time I started developing my first visual novel, I also got into reviewing games. Mostly visual novels, but occasionally interactive fiction games or random indie RPGs, or just random fun games. And I loved doing it. I still love doing it. I'm happy to be reviewing for Anime Backgrounds now, and I'm also happy to put out the occasional random review on a book I like or on a completely random thing called Pen Pal Tarot.
Shortly before I moved, I started doing some copywriting on the side, partly because I'm poor and partly because I wanted the writing practice. I don't really love copywriting and I don't do it as much as I do other writing projects, but it's fun every now and then.
You know what the common denominator is? I'm happy doing both of those things. Yeah, I know, it seems really obvious. But I seriously hadn't realized it before.
One day, I sat my brain down and told it that we needed to have a much-needed talk. And it went something like this:
I love writing. I am compelled to write. Writing makes me happy. It helps me be healthier. It is what I want to do. So why the hell am I trying to force myself into a singular box, when I should just be writing?
So that's what I'm doing.
These days, I write poetry. I write reviews. I'm still working on that visual novel. I do some random copywriting and proofreading. I have a lot of ideas for zines that I want to do. And I write rambling blog posts about things that no one else cares about. And all of these things make me happy.
Someday, I do want to write for a living somehow. I don't know how exactly, but it would be amazing to get paid a living wage to do what I love to do. But even if it never happens, I love writing too much to give it up. And no matter what happens on the career front, I'm not doing myself any favors by trying to force myself to fit in a box.
So I write whatever I want to write.
I am not famous. I will probably never be famous. But I am doing something that makes me happy. And as a very unhappy person, I need to do the things that make me happy. And that is writing. And so that is what I am doing. I am not always doing it well, but I am doing it.
Because goddamn it, I'm a writer and I'm going to own it.