On not having a niche

…or, on being a jack of all writing topics, and a master of none.

I read this the other day, and it prompted a bit of a Think. (I can highly recommend that blog, but if you find you love it too and start reading it regularly and eventually discover you prefer it to mine, for the love of God, don’t tell me.)  Anyway, it was a Think about what it is I write about, what I want to write about, and the point of having a blog at all, really.

Cards on the table, heart-on-my-sleeve moment ahead (what was that about good writers avoiding cliches?) – writing gives me a thrill like nothing else. Having an “I’ll write about this!” moment, feeling ideas for a post gradually bubble and come to the boil, attempting to come up with witty asides, writing a resounding last line – I love the whole process. I need to do it; I swear it’s good for my brain. For eight hours a day during the week, I’m ticking off small tasks, dealing with the urgent and the immediate – writing is a mental stretch of the legs, like giving a restless pony a mad gallop around a field, just for the fun of it.

I couldn’t market this blog. The only category it would fit in would be “the haphazard ramblings of an average, middle-class, female twenty-something”. I don’t feel a need to try and “sell” it, mind, but after three years, I still struggle to answer the question “what do you blog about?” And not just because, like “party”, “blog” should never be used as a verb.

What do I blog (eurgh) about?

 

Just… stuff. Bit of this, bit of that. Things I’ve done, places I’ve been, some vaguely feminist things, some faintly political things, some silly, joyful things. Issues I’ve thought about for long enough to be able to scramble together 800-or-so words.

During a recent “so you want to be a writer? What do you write about?” conversation, someone said to me, “you need a theme… like sex and baking!” Which is a passable suggestion, sure, but a) 40 trahillion filth-and-filo blogs probably already exist, b) I’m not much of a baker, and c) much as I’d love to be able to write about my sex life, I’m not anonymous, so I can’t.

I can’t call myself a feminist blogger, because I don’t write solely about feminism. I try and stay away from politics for the most part, because it’s not something I feel I know enough about, and if you’re writing things on the internet, then by God, you need to know your stuff. And this is never more true than if you’re a woman, writing about politics.

I like reviewing things – music, books, films, TV – but not all the time. I get more of a kick out of writing-as-a-mental-leg-stretch. I thrive on the challenge element – can I spin a few hundred words out of this? Can I throw in some half-funny lines about that? Can I mould this topic into the shape of a blog post?

I’m a make-up and beauty freak, and a frightening proportion of my income goes directly to Boots,but beauty blogging is an overcrowded stage. and as I keep saying, I like writing about different things.

So I don’t quite know why I’m worried about not having a niche; I suspect deep down it’s because I know that themed blogs are simply easier to find, and their audiences grow at a faster rate. More people are interested in food/make-up/vintage fashion than in “good writing”. Not that I’m saying my writing is necessarily good; I just can’t not do it. It’s getting to the point where at least 60% of the things that happen in my life prompt me to think “could I write about this?” – if only in passing. I started this blog purely for myself, but writers are basically passive-aggressive attention seekers – the whole point of putting your thoughts on paper, or on screen, is to get someone’s attention. Whether it’s an audience of tens or of thousands, writers spin words to forge connections.

And those connections are tiny threads of gold, spider-web-thin, across time and space.

 

On the Bambi bookshelf

Yup, sticking with that subheading for now. Sorry.

This week, I’m storming through Viv Albertine’s Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys. Albertine was the guitarist in the all-female punk band The Slits, and her memoir is, in short, a bloody good read. She was mates with Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten and Vivienne Westwood, and dated Mick Jones of The Clash on and off for ages (and I’ve just found out that he wrote my favourite Clash song, Train in Vain, about her). The writing is sparse and at times, gaspingly honest, but by God, we need more women like Viv. What a life she has led.

This interview with her is a good’un.

Currently listening to… The Tron Legacy soundtrack (it’s an hour and a half long; I wouldn’t click if I were you).

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