How to Find Your Niche

How do you define your blog? How do you frame your concepts? How do you know what stuff you would and wouldn't talk about in your blog?

There are a number of ways that can encourage your writing and hone your skills and clarify your voice and thoughts. These bullet points helped me through the writing-identity crises when I couldn't for the world know what the hell I was going to be write about.

Write what you like.
Chances are that you know a lot about the stuff that you like, so your topic(s) would have substance and depth and personality in it, and you probably don't need to spend so much time on research. We all look at things differently. We might all like the same game, but for different reasons and each of us have our point of views, our own ways of telling the story.

Like what you write.
Being a writer when you prefer cooking by nature is certainly doable but out of context, like celebrating 4th of July in December. Wheras if you write because you actually love writing, it doesn't really matter what others might say about your craft because you've satisfied your first audience: You. 

Not liking your own writing doubles the chances for disappointment. And whether or not you're good at hiding it, your other audiences will smell the dislike and insincerity. Murphy's Law, man.

Enjoying it is the first reason why you should write, and that joy will show in your writings, even if you're just repeating vowels. A loooooooooooooooot.

Know a little about everything.
Read, browse, listen, watch, touch, taste. Google, wiki, howstuffwork.com your free thoughts. Involve your senses in everyday learning process. Indulge. Do you know why zakah is only 2.5% of income? Did I tell you about a teacher who raised a family on $4 (yes, four dollars only) a MONTH? Do you know what the area behind a man's balls is called? Experiment with your thoughts, and just get out of the box, something new is waiting for you to discover it, everyday.

Know everything about something.
If you've clicked every link, read every book, debated in every forum and have known every-possible-thing about something, it's called expertise. We all got our areas of expertise because the way the world works nowadays limits our ability to diversify our knowledge. That's sad. The good news is that  the way the world works today also allows us to converse and exchange information, so your expertise can teach me a thing or two about something, and my expertise can improve the quality of your life by a gram or two. Which is great. Don't worry about experience or good looks, it's the grey matter in your head that I'm attracted to.

Knowing a little more than most people makes you the Google of that particular subject. And people will ask, and it'll make you the center of attention if you can be interesting while you tell it. And I mean by interesting is being down-to-earth and enthusiastic and courteous. So get off the ivory tower, you jerk.

Talk about it…
Talking is reflecting. People talk because they need mirrors, they need to test their ideas out there in the real world. What do you think about becoming the first African-American president? When the world said "Hell yea!", he must've thought that it's a good idea too.

You can only know the validity of your ideas when you test it in the open. You can only know how people would react to your book, if you got it published. Putting your ideas out there makes you courageous; learning from it allows you to grow. Plus, it makes you look cool for a while, no matter how bruised.

…with the right folks.
Yes, be a hardcore Marxist if you must, but not with your 3 year-old cousins. It's waste of breath. So mind your audience. Find someone who might mentor and give you feedback. Someone like OmArie and the Timekeeper. People who'd provide the toughest criticism and most sincere opinions. People you look up to and have a better understanding of how the world works. I have my prejudices about the selection process, but generally if they don't come in cheap, they're not there for the right reasons.

Fuck the niches.
When all fails, the hell with it. If you have been doing all of the above and you haven't been able to frame your niche or concept or theme or genre, then maybe it's not the time to limit yourself. Maybe you just need to write some more for a while, and keep it personal, until something stands out. Don't fuss about appearances and enjoy the journey; you'll be surprised how many surprises you'll find when you are unframed with a destination.

So tell me, what gets you into writing?


June 2007

I opened my laptop for him, exposing 25 of my latest posts for him to scrutinize.
He commented on my writings, and after a pause, he said,

“Your men,” he said, , “They’re confused.”

I heard my heart clunking at the bottom of my stomach “Huh?”

“You tend to become attracted to fragile men because of your instinct to protect as the oldest child. Yet, as a woman, you also long to be protected, so you’re attracted to the dominant aspect of their personality too.”

Something else clunks, maybe it's my pride.

My uncle continued, “Men who are both domineering and fragile are – in reality – very confused men. They father and preach you in one scene and ,in the next, they’ll go berserk if you express individuality. That’s why your relationships with them never last, because their confusion added to your own, is exhausting.”


November 2008

For once, a lot of people would agree with me; that his charisma and social skills were outstanding. That women would flutter at his feet and men would follow his whims. That he is matured and beautiful and hold the kind of grace preserved for aristocrats, and the kind of power preserved for conglomerates. We know this. He knows this, and he takes it for heartbreaking granted.

That afternoon, we sat over coffee and donuts, over elaborate monologues centered around his amour-propre, over the submissive want to indulge in his captivating presence.

I gave in to him, to his detailed description of his extraordinary affair with a princess, to his childlike ideas about God and utopia, to his weakness for praise and my need to please him. I needed to give in to every possible second and thought and breath filled with his miniscule details: the way he breathed, the way he mouthed my name and nickname and endearments, the way his palm felt on mine when he accidentally allowed as much, leaving me bothered and conflicted.

I yielded to his every command; I am a nodding dashboard puppet when he stated his ideals, I am a vehement provocateur to his subjects of disapproval, I am the muse to his whims and fancy, and I am the fool with my soul bared for him to pick.

I wanted him and I wanted him to want me, while trying to keep myself afloat in a pool of handsome candy, tuck inside a thundering rollercoaster of lust. Sweet. Intoxicating. Rush.


I managed to get away right before anything that could disappoint me and God and my parents happened between me and that very beautiful charmer.

I reached home and slumped into the majlis, exhilarated and exhausted, combing my consciousness through layers of sensory overload.

Barely noticing it served.

Barely noticing it brought to my side, by someone who is worlds apart from the man-whore in the café.

Barely noticing the second man at all, when he closed the door behind me as I walked into the house, when he replied "Wa'alaikum Salam", when he brought the tea, and every time he is in my presence. Keeping his eyes and voice and limbs strictly within propriety's range. Dutiful. Quiet. Efficient.

Somehow the old fear of abandonment allowed me to catch the sight of him walking away, leaving me staring inquisitively at the cup he brought, for as long that it took for us to converse: "Did I ask for you?"

"No," said the cup, "but your manservant thought that you might like me here."


It was the warmest, serenest and most fulfilling tea that could possibly fill a cup.



There is a stack of unread books in my room, in the Timekeeper's house, and an entire folder in my laptop filled with ebooks from Gutenberg.

My unread books and ebooks are the kind that critics and parents would approve of. I know I'm going to enjoy Pamuk and Márquez as much as I have enjoyed Wilde and Tolstoy. But to enjoy Joyce and Kundera? Or Faulkner and Beckett?

Have you ever dipped your eyes into a bucket of Nietzsche? Wicked. OmArie said that if you can understand Nietzsche's ramblings, you probably can understand anything else remotely philosophical. A word of warning though, don't go too far with Nietzsche; if you start agreeing him, you might contract some of his diseases. I read that Nietzsche caught the wise man's fever and lost his mind two years into his death. It might have been just a bad migraine. Or a brain tumor.

Anyway, back to that stack of books in my room and laptop folder. It's the difficult ones that I want to put my attention to. The ones I've been trying to read since I heard of them years ago. Alas, the lack of time and abundance of excuses distracted me for years. Starting with the aforementioned, merely the weight of Nietzsche's Spake started a migraine in my nose. The fonts in Xingjian's Soul worried me of Communists. And just the thought of Mrs. Dalloway gave me shudders; because just as much as she loved her creator, Mrs. Dalloway certainly could not talk Mrs. Woolf into floating.

But, no, this time I won't cower. As worrisome as they may seem, the demons plastered in these cryptic pages won't thwart my quest in conquering them one page, one paragraph at a time. And I won't stop at reading. I don't want to just read these books, I also want to enjoy them, as much as I enjoyed Voltaire's Candide and Tolstoy's Karenina. I want to hear the magic. I want to have phrases ringing in my head like Roy's "Tu. Morrow." I want to dream the imagery, losing myself in their space and time, instead of feeling stuck and stupified because of them.

Then again, why should one bother reading the classics at all? Aren't they, the contemporary writers, good enough? Didn't I enjoy Potter's company as much as everybody else? Isn't Coelho more uplifting and enjoyable? The Lords of The Bestselling Pop Novels sure did well in garnering mass attention for a while, and the masses concurred anonymously. So why bother with Joyce's dastardly impossible stream of thoughts?

Simply because they're classic. There is a timeless column, by Tamim Ansary that started my attempts in digging deeper into the ancient vaults of classic literature. Something he said ringed in my head every time I start with a new book:

If you can't remember a book you really enjoyed, it might be because your attention was the only part of you the book engaged.

Now for someone with ADHD, that rang a lot of bells. Good books, that stand the test of time and are still read by millions through generations, can definitely keep the average reader's attention for at least more than a chapter (and sometimes for years to come); because it can touch the imagination in more concrete ways than pulp fiction.

Another "cooler-than-thou" article I found simply stated that Einstein read the classics too, and attributed some of his intellect to such habits. Sure, John Wesley can be a bit condescending in his arguments about why people should read classic books, and that was just fine by me. Besides, who in the world would consider themselves intellectual if they don't wonder how Einstein got there in the first place, genetics aside? You DO want to keep learning for the rest of your life, don't you?

So, yeah, maybe you're not going to pick up a classic novel today, like I might not going to go straight to Joyce's Ulysses until I finish Keats' Endymion first. But I'm getting there. For sure.



When Baba was a boy, he used to chase kites with his brothers and buddies in Djatibarang, a nearly-remote village in the center of Central Java. One day, their kite chasing was cut short by a group of people looking upwards, to the purplish-orange evening sky.

Have you noticed how, when you see people looking to some direction, you'd involuntarily look in their direction too? Mass media in its simplest forms, I tell ya!

As they looked up, at the height of a full-grown coconut tree, a Gestaltian process of giving comprehension to the senses slowly gathered and formed this collective memory to all who looked at the stunning view of the long figure, with the majestic strength, glimmering in red from the aging daylight.

They were graced with the magnificent and indeed rare sight of an Asian Dragon.

Back in the days, when nature was true and undisturbed, man muddied their feet for food, dug the ground for water, bathed in the rivers, and breathed from mountains and seas. Back in the days, when the human body and spirit were integral parts of nature and balance was maintained in reverence to all of its elements, the dragons and dwarves and demi-demons peregrinated the lands and skies and caves and waters, visible and audible and touchable even to the common child that my father was.

I often look up to the very skies that my father looked up to as a child and I wonder where the dragons have went, if not deeper into a child's imagination or drug induced hallucinations. I wonder if, in my lifetime, I could touch the edges of purity, in body and mind and surrounding, that would grant me the glimpse of a true dragon, just like the one that my father and his village-kin fleetingly witnessed hovering that evening, years ago.

I gather these story crumbs trying to piece together my own Gestaltian memory of a dragonless life that is (at least) less ordinary, less disappointing, than the way I have always perceived it.

It's not the dragons that is worth seeing or writing about, it's their magic and wisdom and benevolence that is worth working on in each of us. Whether or not dragons are real, whether or not god or demons or faeries exist, it's the ideas that we caress and coddle and nurture that will eventually shape the roads we walk on.

I wish us well.

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