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Niche v Expansive: Singular Mastery or Diversified Disciplines in the Creative Practice

This may not be a nuanced conversation this week, however, it is one that many creatives struggle with at every level. From the hobbyist, to the creative business owner, deciding where you want to place your focus, and how you want to channel your creative energy is our biggest struggle. Creatively, we often fall into the trap of shiny new syndrome, where new projects or interests crop up and take our focus away from what we are investing in. It’s natural, especially when we’re learning and finding our creative footholds, to jump around and try little bits of everything until we come across something that really resonates with us and captivates our creative interest. Whether it’s discipline jumping or project hopping, shiny new syndrome can exist in creatives who focus on niching down, and those who choose to expand their practice.

Truly I believe this comes down to a singular question: Do you prioritize mastery over one discipline or do you diversify your creative pallet and embrace a jack of all trades attitude?

Niching Down: Mastery in Making

A niche is a very specific group or area with unique and singular properties that identify it as its own entity. To niche down as a creative is to choose a specific craft, focus, or discipline and solely dedicate yourself to the pursuit of that singular practice. In a writer this may look like a specific genre, style, or trope set. In the visual artist it may look like a singular medium or subject matter. You might only enjoy crosswords or sudoku, but not both. Perhaps nail art is your thing, or you love collecting stamps. The point is a niche is a very specific thing, and when we give all of our focus to a singular pursuit we often reach levels of mastery within it.

If you are looking at an audience perspective, for the business owner or content creators out there, niching down is something they are taught to excel in. The questions top of mind: who is my target audience, what are their expectations of me, how do I satisfy those set expectations? Now, some people do stumble into a niche all their own. When I first wanted to start a blog I was originally going to call it, “Pages, Planks and Plies” which on the surface may seem broad as it encompasses all of my creative outlets. However, finding a target audience who is invested in all aspects of the blog, someone who would find interest in this intersection of writing, working out, and dance is a very niche audience, currently of one, me. Some might say writing about creativity is a niche community in which I participate, but the ways in which I create are far from a singular focus or practice.

Shiny new project syndrome shows up in this niching down movement when we want to progress our level of mastery in a specific field of creativity. We often bounce around to the next, more challenging idea. This often happens because we are finding our true niche - the style, the product, the process that works best for us and feels the best to us.

The Pros of Niching Down

  • Build audience expectation and appetite for what you have to give

  • Development of mastery

  • Clear path and focus

The Cons of Singular Focus

  • One revenue stream (business minded creatives)

  • Limited diversity for growth and expansion

  • Block and repetition can negate the joy

Expansive Horizons: Broadening the Practice

To be expansive is to broaden your borders and boundaries around your creativity to encompass a diversified set of skills and interests within a singular creative practice. This is a camp of wistful dreamers, following their creative whims and curiosities. In a writer this might look like writing different genres or forms. In a visual artist one might dabble in multi - media art forms or more than one subject matter. Calligraphy is a great example of a niche discipline that can be expanded and diversified for products and purpose from cards and written pieces, to signs, art work, and school projects. The discipline might be niche, but its creative practice and application is expansive. For creatives who are looking for growth and need stimulation from different avenues, in different ways, expanding your creative practice to include different disciplines is a fantastic work around for block and boredom.

For the creative looking to build an audience, this can make it more difficult, however, by diversifying your offerings and expertise, you can reach a broader spectrum of people and deliver nuanced service and products based on shifting demands and interests. I myself fall into the expansive camp. I love trying new things and playing in fields I have no business being in. In my writing I write about creativity in blogs, and fiction novels. Within my novel writing I write fantasy and contemporary romance. In my dance I am student, teacher, and choreography, in the styles of ballet, jazz, and lyrical for different age groups. I’ve begun pastel painting and embroidery. In discipline, style, and within craft itself I broaden how and what I practice because I love the process of learning and expanding in my creativity. Choosing to switch gears on the blog itself and discuss the thread of creativity in our lives is an expanded version of my original idea.

Shiny new project syndrome is rampant for the expansive creative because we have all of these different interests and projects pulling at us constantly. This can oftentimes lead to decreased productivity and chronic unfinished projects.

The Pros of Expansive Creative Horizons

  • The more creative outlets, the better for emotional and mental health

  • More offering can equate to more income streams

  • Can help with creative block in one discipline to switch to another for a time

The Cons of Creative Diversification

  • Can lead to being trapped in the beginner stage in multiple areas

  • Difficulty completing projects

  • Trouble finding your voice and footing as a creative in terms of style

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