Labeling our passion can hinder it

Sometimes, in our haste to have our passion understood, we allow others to label us in a way that hinders us. For me, the whole “blogging niche” thing has been a source of frustration, bewilderment, and limitation.  The more I’ve dug into it, the more convinced I am that labeling our passion should be handled with care.

labeling our passion

As much as I’d love more Pinterest traffic, it’s just not me. Every time I try to post a tutorial or a recipe, I quickly realize I have no business being a “prescriptive” blogger.

(Prescriptive bloggers write helpful content that teaches us how to do stuff like cook a turkey, refashion an ugly dress, repaint a thrift store find using chalk paint, or organize our underwear drawer. I am in AWE of the women who can write those kinds of things and live authentically. I just realize I’m not one of them.)

When I try to write “do this” stuff, I find myself wearing my bossy britches. The way I write changes and all of a sudden I feel like I’m lecturing. (Or I lose all self control and insert snark into the middle of a perfectly good recipe. Or I completely mess up a project and end up making the pants of shame. Or I gleefully show off photos of my messy sink to prove how real I am.)

That’s just… me.

In the big scheme of blogging, you’re either a prescriptive blogger or you’re a narrative (story telling) blogger.

Figuring out that I’m a narrative blogger was easy.  (The process of elimination can really simplify things sometimes.)

In the big scheme of blogging, if you’re a “mom blogger” you do one of a few tight categories. Lifestyle stuff, humor, hot mess, religion, or coupons. (Yes, I know those aren’t the official categories. But as I talked to bloggers who weren’t moms, those were the common ideas.)

Figuring out my exact niche has been a little harder.

If you’ve ever been around a group of bloggers, one question comes up. “What’s your niche?” If you give them a blank stare, they proceed to ask “are you a humor blogger? Religion? Lifestyle? Food? Financial? Politics?” If you try to explain that you don’t exactly fit in a niche, you get a dismissive waive of the hand as just another “mommy blogger” in it for the free samples.

(There is NOTHING wrong with free samples ladies.)

I’ve never found a niche that fit. I just know the bossy pants aren’t authentic or flattering.

In many ways, I suspect all writers face the same thing.

I can’t walk into a bookstore and find a shelf labeled “really good stories that are mostly funny but that sometimes make you think” or one labeled “proud of not cussing but not overly preachy with lots of scriptures in a quietly Christian kind of way.” Books are labeled in big categories that we (mostly) understand.

(Yes. Those are terms I’ve used to describe my blog. Eeek!)

As a blogger, I was expected to know my niche from day one. Even before I found my writing voice. Living up to a niche label that doesn’t quite fit can be tough.

At one point I tried “humor blog” on for size. My sense of humor immediately evaporated under the pressure.

I tried “parenting blog” for a bit. My son came home with one of “those” notes from school every day for the next two weeks.

For a time, I considered “inspirational blog.” My kids instantly became the source of non-stop comedic inspiration.

That blogging label felt a bit stifling each time.

voice before niche

It’s not just blogging labels that can limit us.

At sixteen, my biggest passion (aside from my boyfriend) was singing.

I loved singing in our school choir. I loved singing in our church choir. I was good enough to make all-state. I was good enough to convince my mom to pay for voice lessons. Unfortunately, my acute stage fright killed any chance I had.

It’s a sweet memory. I just remember people encouraging me to pursue my passion and to see where my talents took me. No one ever said “what’s your niche?” No one ever prompted me with “are you a jazz singer? Pop? Opera? Country?” In point of fact, my voice coach insisted that I sing a variety of styles and not just one to help me be a balanced musician and discover the full extent of my vocal abilities.

(Sigh. It turns out that my biggest vocal ability was to go absolutely tone-deaf on stage. But if you could have heard me in the practice session… you would have been impressed.)

Somehow, I’ve lost the freedom to be that sixteen year old struggling to find her voice.

As a blogger, I was expected to know my niche from day one. Even before I found my writing voice. Living up to a niche label that doesn’t quite fit can be tough.

I’ve been homeschooling for about two months. I’m proudly “nicheless.”

The kids and I are slowly figuring out what works best for all of us. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked “what’s your niche?” When I tell them I’m new to homeschooling, they still follow up with “are you doing Bob Jones? Are you unschooling? Are you a Charlotte Mason follower? Are you a classical education person?”

What I want to tell them all is that I honestly have no clue where our homeschooling journey will take us. I can’t tell you what teaching methods will work six months from now because it’s a moving target. Right now, we’re sampling a variety of styles and not just one to help create more balanced learners and discover the full range of my teaching abilities.

If you press, I’ll tell you I’m an eclectic homeschooler. I think that’s the secret code-word for “coffee dependent and not really sure what I’m doing.”

Sometimes, labels are a process of elimination.

As a sixteen year old singer, it took one opera to learn that it was NOT my niche.
When I was a beginning blogger, it didn’t take long to learn that DIY was NOT my niche.
As a baby homeschooler, it didn’t take long to learn that worksheets are NOT our niche.

Identifying what doesn’t fit is the easy part.
Labeling what you love is a little tougher.

For me to write for the love of writing (the whole point of this 31 day series) I have to move beyond the niche.

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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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Comments

  1. The niche thing has been vexing me since I started blogging. While I am middle-age, I sure don’t intend to write about “middle-age stuff” (which seems to be largely talk about menopause – BORING!). Since I’m just doing this for me and not to make big bucks, I have to keep remembering that I have the right to tell my stories in the way I wish to tell them. Good luck with the homeschooling! I am in awe of folks who take on that responsibility!

    • Menopause can be entertaining to read about — about once or twice a month. There’s no way I could read/write about it every day. (I confess, I’ve recently googled why the symptoms for menopause and pregnancy seem to be exactly the same freaking thing. ugh!)

      The niche thing has driven me crazy and made it harder to write at times. I wish I knew the answer.

  2. I love this post! Your mom blogger categories crack me up….I think I’d fall into hot mess if I were a “mom” blogger which I’m not. On the other hand, I’m a mom AND I’m a blogger so maybe I am? That niche thing continues to throw me as well. I even found having to pick somewhere to put myself for the 31 days a bit hard to do like I was going to be penalized for putting myself in the wrong category.

    • I stressed over where to put mine as well. I was tempted to change my title just so I could be in the “too awesome to categorize” bucket. I know there’s not a panel of judges scoring the #write31days thing like a competition, but sometimes, it still feels that way. (And I’m secretly worried I’ll get a failing grade.)

      My mom blogger categories are pretty much directly from a conversation I had with a long-time blogger who is not a mom. I wrote them down because it was just so absurd. The blogger-who-is-not-a-mom was pretty dismissive and said that all mom bloggers are doing is writing about coupons and having linky parties.

  3. Hi Susan,

    My wife is looking at starting a mom blog on the subject of children’s rights and protection of the vulnerable. We loved your blog and took some inspiration from many of your messages :)

  4. I rarely read a blog that makes me laugh out loud. You are describing all the things that make it difficult for me to just jump in and write…way to break the fear barriers Susan! My passion is marriage….but I certainly don't want to limit my blog to one topic. However, one day I do hope to write a book title like, "How to Love Your Husband Like a Prince…When He Acts Like a Frog". But it makes me feel like miss bossy pants…lol.

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