“You can’t be an expert without investing years in one directional effort.” –Hope Clark
I read this quote by one of my greatest mentors, Hope Clark (www.fundsforwriters.com), and for a minute I felt paralyzed. As a writer, I am not really moving in one solid direction right now. Must mean I’m not an expert. At anything.
But wait. I am a writer. Can’t that mean I am at least an expert at writing?
When it comes to the big umbrella of a profession, I appear to have it down. I am a writer. I write creative nonfiction and journalism. I write essays and newspaper articles. I write for magazines. I am trying to break in to a few literary journals.
But under that umbrella, things start to get messy. I write essays and articles, sure. But I also dabble in poetry. And photography. I am working on two books. I maintain two blogs, on two completely different subjects (writing and mothering).
I have a deep interest in life stories: telling my own and encouraging others to get theirs out into the world. I have a soft spot for pregnant women and new mothers and am constantly thinking about ways to channel my gifts into some sort of service that could help that population. On my work days – my designated writing days when Adorable Toddler Boy is at daycare – I dive under that “writer” umbrella and muck around, submitting pieces to magazines, coming up with new blog topics, learning more about becoming a personal historian. And all the while I fight the urge to ask myself, “Am I accomplishing anything?”
Here’s what I’m learning, though:
- Sometimes, it’s okay to not have an immediate answer. Sometimes, the best gift in disguise is that an answer is not readily available when we want it. From the Christian perspective, it’s God challenging us and shaping our character to make us stronger and help us realize our own gifts. Call it what you want – trial, struggle, God working – but I know through this own hard look at myself and my vocation, I am learning, and I am making progress. Ever so slowly, a picture is starting to emerge of my future as a writer.
- Processing like this takes time. Look at the woman I referenced in The Jack-of-all-Trades Conundrum, part I. Hers was a four-year journey, with a lot of other life responsibilities thrown into the mix: holding down a full time job, being a mother, working on a graduate degree. Her emerging into her true writer’s vocation did not come without talking to a lot of others around her. Which brings me to the next point.
- Discovering your niche requires a community. That is, a community of people, both challengers and supporters, around you. It’s important to talk about your interests, however scary or seemingly out of the blue they are, and receive feedback. Surround yourself with good listeners who care about your future. Some eyes might get wide when you mention that, on top of wanting to be a food blogger with a solid following, you want to pursue a wilderness safety certification and learn how to ride horseback. But who knows? You might find someone who sees a no-nonsense way of combining those interests into something spectacular, a brand for yourself that you never would have found had you not made your passions known.
What interests are you pursuing right now? What interests have been poking at you that might be ignoring?