I read this everywhere: “to be successful in business, you must first pick a niche.” While there’s definitely merit to this advice, it has seeped into a place where I believe it needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt: creative pursuits.
Most creative people are interested in many subjects, and as such, function best when they have several, diverse projects on the go. In today’s post, Julia Selfridge takes on this topic: should creatives niche? Read on to find out more.
As MultiTalented Writers, we choose to write about multiple topics because we have multiple interests.
It’s quite fitting that a single term cannot be agreed upon between people with multitalented personalities. For this post, we’ll use the term Scanners.
Scanners do not have standard, streamlined personalities. They tend to see the world differently than most, and they are intellectually playful and passionate in their pursuits while remaining objective.
The World from a Different Perspective
Scanners see connections within the world that many others don’t. Emilie Wapnick references this in her TED talk. She calls it “idea synthesis,” which she explains as the ability to take two ideas and put them together.
For example, we have one group of friends discussing parenting. Another group discussing cars. Is there a connection here? Scanners would certainly believe so. For a scanner, this might spark interest in a conversation about
1) At what age our children should have a car,
2) Who will pay for their first car, and
3) What are some rules that should be in place when our teenagers start driving?
What initially seemed to be two completely unrelated topics have intersected beautifully. Scanners are excellent at finding these connections.
In her book, “Refuse to Choose”, Barbara Sher sums up Scanner personalities perfectly. Scanners refuse to choose one single path. If they are currently on one path, they will find connections that they want to explore.
Scanners will constantly crave multiple projects. They don’t simply have experience in one field and tend to have eclectic interests and employment histories. While in our current niche-heavy society, Scanners may seem out of place, this type of personality is hardly unknown to history.
Consider Leonardo Da Vinci, born in 1452. He is best known for his painting of The Last Supper and The Mona Lisa. However, he was also an architect, engineer, sculptor and inventor, and had a passion for aeronautics and anatomy.
Da Vinci had notebooks filled with his ideas, inventions and theories. In that time period, Da Vinci was termed a “Renaissance Man” due to his many passions. Today, we would call him a Scanner (or a multipotentialite).
Passionate yet Objective
Scanners are passionate people. Once something catches their interest they study it, learn it, and then move to their next venture. Although scanners move on quickly, they tend to fully understand and are able to use the information they have learnt to its fullest potential.
On the other hand, scanners are also objective. Even though they have passionately dug into a subject they will still ask “Why?” “How can it be different?” “Can I change this?” This trait allows them to remain objective in most of their endeavours.
Should Creatives Niche?
Scanners have a massively different way of looking at things. These traits can be very helpful if used well. Scanners can bring fierce passion into a workroom to look at projects from different angles. Their many experiences are useful in multiple situations and places.
Emilie Wapnick believes that pairing a scanner with a more streamlined person can be the ideal partnership. The streamlined person is more focused on one particular subject. They delve into it full force. Most of the time, streamlined people will know their subject matter through and through, whereas the Scanner will be thinking from an outside-the-box perspective. “Can this be eliminated, added to or changed?” “What might work better?” “Let’s try this instead.”
Unfortunately, in most of North America, people are encouraged to choose one path from a very early age. The advice to niche and to choose a profession as early as possible has become commonplace.
Whereas this advice might work for someone who is deeply passionate about just one subject, it’s not the best advice for scanners. As creative people, scanners may become stale if they choose only one pursuit, and may lose interest in how well they are performing.
Once scanners have learned what they needed to know, they often want to move on to another pursuit. Scanners will drive themselves to boredom, causing much tension, if they don’t allow themselves to work in various fields. Scanners’ abilities are much more useful when they are allowed to be themselves and can cross subject matter freely.
“Be grateful that you’re a Scanner. Not everyone can have this much fun with nothing but what’s between her ears. ~ Barbara Sher