At the core of all writing is a feeling for story and for words, and having the capability to organize "information" into narratives that engage readers. It's the same no matter the medium or genre, whether you're writing a script for a TV commercial, a play, an essay, a blog post for a business, an obituary of a brilliant scientist, a news story about a political protest, or a love poem.
I market myself as a "content marketer," but that doesn't mean I can't write many other things. Whether you market yourself as a poet or an essayist or a romance novelist or a copywriter, we're all trying to do the same thing -- make human connections with our words.
Many writers and creative professionals want to be specialists, and they're right. By following one niche or genre, you can improve what you do, make your reputation larger (big fish in small pond), and find more work. What I'm saying is this -- it's fine if clients, editors, and readers see you as "the go-to person for blog posts on retirement planning for Millennials." You might even market yourself that way if writing about retirement planning is a lucrative and growing market (it may well be, actually). Just don't define yourself that way in your own mind, don't dream about being "the go-to writer on retirement planning for Millennials," because it restricts your capacity to be creative and contribute your skills elsewhere.
If the "small pond" you happen to inhabit, as the big fish, ever dries up, what are you going to do? Keep floundering in the mud until your air runs out? Always be ready to adapt, even when you specialize. Especially when you specialize.
I'm proudly versatile, willing to try new kinds of writing and write about diverse topics. As Walt Whitman once wrote: "Do I contradict myself? So I contradict myself. I am large and contain multitudes." Whitman was my kind of artist, self-reflective, open to diversity and new experiences, never losing his joie de vivre and passion for the commonplace things around him -- which he never saw as commonplace, Be filled with wonder and passion for the new, no matter your age or specialization.
So to all creative types, and all human types, I'd offer the same suggestions: keep learning, keep trying, keep failing (because that is learning too), and don't be afraid to do things that might scare you. You should be doing things that scare you, at least sometimes. After all, you may find new, "scary" things that you like doing, that may even sustain you spiritually and financially.
I went from writing poems and personal essays in my twenties, to writing newspaper journalism in my thirties and forties, to writing business stories today. I've worked as a lawyer, a teacher, a business trainer, a banker, and a journalist. And I may just add a few more professions to the mix before I'm done.
Others may see this as a lack focus, that I don't know what I want to do with my life. I always say that I've done exactly what I've wanted with my life -- it just hasn't been one thing. It's just the way I'm built. Others may want to do one thing all their lives, and they have my respect and good wishes. But I am not them, nor they me.
As a creative person, I get bored easily and view too much routine as an enemy. Sometimes I just stumble my way along and find something I like, other times I just try something and move on from it, a lesson learned in what I don't like to do. I took a night class in computer programming about a decade ago. Guess what? It's something I tried, learned something about, actually use today in my writing for business clients, but don't wish to pursue as a career path. That said, some of my best friends are computer programmers -- they often tell me how they couldn't do what I do. I tell them that I couldn't do what they do.
We all have things we like to do. For some of us, it's one or two things. For others, it's many. I'm in the second camp. Learning is fun and ever-humbling, and it's good for us. T.S. Eliot used to say, "every writer is a failed writer." That's too pessimistic for me, but I understand what he means. The great novelist E.M. Forster once advised would-be writers to "keep failing, but fail better each time." As a rule for life, "fail better" isn't a bad one.
What are your views on versatlity versus specializing?