First of all, you have to make sure that the nib of your fountain pen is VERY sharp—cats can be pretty critical of a sloppy shave. If you’re not a pen-based cat shaver yourself, you absolutely must find a specialist—a mere penknife dog-shaver or needle-nose pliers hamster-hair plucker won’t do, no matter if they have the skill basics.
I bring up the specialist notion because I was mulling over a post that my pal Jodi Kaplan put up on her blog about creatives having a niche. Jodi provides a lot of helpful links about how focusing on a business niche can refine your business and concentrate your customer base, the whys of setting up separate sites for separate niches, how to market to a niche and more.
That caused me to reflect that I not only shave cats, dogs and hamsters, but balloon animals too. My trouble is that I truly love the variety of writing a writer can do, and dabble in so many of its forms. This week, for instance, I finished a travel piece that will run in the Los Angeles Times, I am working on a 30-second radio spot for a Philadelphia restaurant, and I wrote a number of website pages of marketing copy for a company promoting its Colorado ranch properties for weddings. Love the travel writing, love radio ads, and marketing piffle for weddings? Well, there are bills to pay.
I’ve spent long years writing user manuals for software, and marketing pieces to flank the documentation. But as the Monty Python skit goes, “I don’t want to own land; I want to sing!” (Translation: I want to write fiction. So I do that too.) One of the reasons my sweetheart angled to meet me, those many years ago, was because she wanted to meet someone who wrote the back-side descriptions for the photographs on pretty notecards. Guilty. And I find the personal essay to be a potent form for persuasion, polemic or poetic meandering, so it’s a genre I return to again and again.
I’ve even been forced by a certain criminal musician/canny marketer/business-maven madman, Joel D Canfield, to write songs. Torment though it be, it was torment sweet. And then there’s the YouTube indulgence—look mom, I can make videos too!
Mr. Twain and Blatherskite
I think there is some danger in the dilution of dilettantism. But my hero, Mark Twain, wrote plays (badly), essays, poems, short stories, novels, advocacy pieces, travel articles, satire, straight journalism, handbills, speeches, jokes—and if you dip your toes into a wide reading pond, you’ll be convinced that he must have sat down and decided to write an entire book of quotations. (Twain had a cat named Blatherskite, but he probably would have procured an outside vendor for the shaving.)
I’ll have to keep mulling over how I can trim my own whiskers. Jodi, I’ll take your post to heart, but I’m not sure I want my travel-writer self to be a website away from my marketing-writer self. I like them all to be on the same page, but damn, it’s crowded.
[Note to self: write synopsis of “Convincing Your Cat to Settle for Monthly Shaving” post.]