What the heck is a niche?

Have you ever asked yourself–or someone else (you brave soul)–this question?

Or maybe you just looked it up and thought, “Huh. That doesn’t help much.”

Because it’s not enough to know the definition of the word. Until you see how it relates to you and to people you know, it’s just another buzzword in the crowd of kazoo-happy buzzwords that have been jumping on your brain sofa lately.

And, at the risk of sounding like a clueless newbie, you feel like screaming, “What the heck is a niche, anyway?! And where do I get one?”

Except, it turns out, you can’t really just go out and nab one of your own. It isn’t really “out there.” It’s one of those things you can’t really find without doing something. You don’t find out what you’re good at without taking risks and reaching out to other people–any one of whom might dampen your enthusiasm a bit with hit-and-run messages like, “Waste of time.”

According to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, one of the definitions of “niche” reads, “a place or position particularly suitable to the person or thing in it,” and another (pertaining to ecology) reads, “the particular role of an individual species or organism in its community and its environment, including its position in the food cycle and its behavior.”

Basically, where do you fit in your world, and how do you relate to the other members of that world–from the largest scale (the universe) to the smallest (your family)?

And, see, that’s where I get stuck. Because I’m still trying to figure that out.

In relation to my immediate family, I’m a wife and a mother. I’m also my kids’ homeschool teacher–or, more accurately, helper. They’re already experts on exploring and investigating their interests. I just help provide the tools they need to learn well and to apply what they learn.

In relation to my role as a writer–and as a freelance provider of writing services (including but not limited to blogging, creative writing, proofreading and editing)–my niche is a work in progress. My blog is part portfolio and part creative laboratory. I throw something into a test tube, sprinkle in a dash of something else, observe and take notes. Then I think, “Hmm. Might be fun to mix these two ideas. See what happens.”

The same goes with Twitter. I’m having so much fun with Twitter. It’s my favorite social networking platform by far. But it’s easy to spend too much time there, so I do need to limit myself to a fixed chunk of time–a few times a day. It’s one of my favorite ways to either gear up or to unwind.

So, I’m going to ask a question of anyone who’s still reading this. Have you found your niche, and how did you find it?

And what are you doing there?

I’m looking forward to reading your comments! Partly because I love a good story, and partly because I’m hoping to learn from what you’ve learned.

Also, if you’re in the same boat I’m in, and you’re taking steps in the dark, I’d love it if you’d comment below to tell me.




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