On creating your own niche

It’s no secret among family and friends that my income has been… let’s call it “tight” for a while.

I’m ready, willing and able to do what I need to to pay bills and get food on the table. But I’m torn among thoughts of finding other work even if it’s for less hourly money but more shifts which would ultimately earn me more than I’m getting (with jobs available but none feeling like a great career move to make), to thinking that if I’m getting new work anyway I might as well shoot for something that earns a better wage than what I’m getting (with jobs available but all seeming to need different experience than I have), to wondering how someone with a university degree and who’s won awards for writing, with the better part of a decade of graphic design experience, and who is entirely teachable and hasn’t heard back about job applications for positions I could absolutely nail, even has to be in this position.

Paired with all that bouncing around in my head is the realization that I’ve yet to really get voiceover work going at all (yes, from looking at starting it over a year ago), that I have a tabletop game ready for beta testing aside from making some of the components and I should really get that squared away, plus knowing I’ve written nothing in the last… whatever it’s been… month or two?… at least?… because of so much going on at home (kiddo graduating this year, wife having a rough go at her work this year, a doggo now part of our world, etc.)

It’s… a lot. Many plates spinning and not knowing which to pay more attention to as the rest start to wobble dangerously at the same time.

Then a few months ago something interesting happened.

By no conscious choice I’m aware of but just as I was bouncing from one video of hard interest to another related one, I soon found myself checking out a video on YouTube by a young guy in England who produces brief but deep dive videos exploring aspects of creativity as employed by certain people, and how we can perhaps learn from them. The few videos of his I’ve seen have been excellent, and struck a real chord with me. In that first one, he quoted music industry legend Brian Eno: Instead of trying to shoot arrows at other peoples’ targets — their goals, their expectations, trying to keep up with whatever it is they’re doing their way — “You shoot your arrow and then you paint your bulls eye around it.”
In other words, do things your own way and you’ll ace them every time because you’re creating a niche entirely for yourself.

This sentiment was echoed in different ways on different videos I ended up seeing through circuitous routes. Not by coincidence, I’m sure, but quite the opposite, being drawn to something in what I was circling around and finally landing on: People from diverse backgrounds saying that not only can someone create their own niche, but that to really stand out from everyone else, they should.

There was… there very much is… a lot of appeal to the idea of not worrying about whether or not I’m doing something the “right way”, and just doing my own creative thing my own way. That’s one of the more liberating ideas I’ve heard, I’ve felt, in a long time. And while more detailed, that advice also harkened back to what friends have been telling me in various ways for years.

But… not to blame my inaction on anything other than just myself, the fact of the matter is that while doing your own creative thing your own way has got to be hugely spiritually uplifting — publishing my own books, or hiring illustrators to draw my comics I then get printed and distribute, or producing my own scripts as movies, or putting out a tabletop game without any support from an established company — well, that all takes money, folks. And the hell of it is, that’s scarce these days. And if it comes down to fulfilling a creative desire or getting food on the table, there’s of course no contest.

As I’ve been teaching the kiddo for years, needs come before wants. That’s always in the context of, say, doing homework before playing video games or hanging out with friends. But it of course very much applies to adults, as well. And right now, being an adult means having to try to do as well as I can for a job to help make ends meet. Once income is less of a stress, once the needs are met, then I can start looking at fulfilling some creative pursuits, and maybe even be in a position to bring them to life. Create my own niche. And maybe doing so will actually manage, with some perseverance and repetition, to overlap a creative life that also earns an income.

Hey, one can dream.
One must.

For now, though, the arrows and the bullseye paint will have to stay in the corner.

1 Comment

  1. Reay V, your great grandfather told wonderful stories about a brother and sister he invented. We kids sat in our room at the “new” cottage with him and his stories, roaring so loud with laughter that everyone at the “old” cottage could hear us! You are telling your stories in blogs, and today, I’m laughing loud enough to let the neighbours hear.
    You’re a great story-teller. Keep it up while you can. It may not be lucrative, but it’s your heart, and it will help you live well.
    Aunt Lois

Comments are closed.