Focus or Diversify?

Do you ever wonder about which is better – to focus or diversify?

With focus, you can become an expert in a small field. It is identifying a niche that pleases you and moving from there to let others come and make use of your knowledge in that small area. On the other hand, with diversity you can know a little bit about a ton of things and point questions in the direction of someone with the expertise to answer in the niche.

I’m struggling with this because I want to focus, but I do not seem to be able to let go of all the little distractions that lead me to exploring other areas. My other problem is a lack of time.

I’m a stay-at-home mom. I play with my kids and try to teach them things and hope they don’t run me ragged by day’s end. I get very little quiet time to pursue my interests, mostly writing, and so I think it’d be best to target one thing and finish it and do it well. Usually I find myself doing about ten things that aren’t that one task that I think ought to be most important.

Is it procrastination? Or is it just some inability to focus?

It’s March and NaNoEdMo is going on. I know I can’t set aside 50 hours to dedicate to editing my manuscript, but I did dutifully send the next segment to my [online] critique partners. While this piece isn’t in their science-fiction-or-fantasy niche, they’re being good sports and reading it anyway.

Yesterday I figured out new goals for the month, and the day before I was free writing about the idea of a community. Some science fiction story will be popping out of that at some point in the near future. It’s not my fault – I refuse to gag my muse. Or maybe that is my fault, because I refuse to gag my muse. She drags me on all kinds of side trips around different concepts and characters and plot twists until I can’t help but focus on something else.

I should be able to help it. I’m the writer. I’m the one in charge! Or so I like to tell myself. When characters take the stories into their own hands, trouble ensues but it makes for a beautiful story.

Sometimes I write articles as well. Does it help to further split my time between nonfiction and fiction? No. Yet something brings me back to nonfiction time and again, so I’m attempting to keep it in check while I go.

I keep track of social media and I’m learning about how I can influence those around me. It’s also interesting because that will be part of my platform for when I do get that book out.

When. Not if. This is not a place or a time for doubt. I am an artist and doubting my work comes all too easily, but I am working on not letting it get in my way. Determination takes me farther than talent, so as long as I keep my iron will set on getting it published I know it will happen.

Then what stops me from working on it until it shines like a pearl? Something is resistant to me sitting down and just saying I’m a novelist, or a short story writer, or an article writer. [Though on that last one, I blame lack of interest in pursuing only articles.] I’m not the best writer out there, but I can’t say I’m a bad writer, either.

Then I’ll be spending more time on the question of whether to focus or to branch out, whether to find my tiny niche or keep writing as I find interest. It is a question for my platform, because then I wonder if I should separate it to be found easier for the things I do, or to lump them together and show the wide differences in style.

It’s hard to be successful until you figure out what you want to do and apply all your talents in that direction. But what if what you think is the direction you want to go actually covers too much territory to make it work? What did you do when this question presented itself? Did you find your niche and become the expert? Or did you dabble with fingers in every inkwell?

It reminds me of the phrase, “jack of all trades, master of none.” Except something in my writerly head wants to twist it to ‘jill of all trades, mistress of one” – meaning writing, of course. I can’t stop because I love it and I don’t know who I am without it.

Balance versus Focus

Sometimes, it feels like the two are definite opposites. I’m curious how other people handle the many irons in the fire. Do you follow one, the most important, and let the rest fall as it will? Do you just not worry about it? Do you manage to keep each one just far enough from the flames to keep it from burning?

I’m struggling with my goals for the school year and where to place the emphasis. I always have too much going on to just let one thing be my entire world. Funny how easy it is to roll with the school year for goals when I tutor students. It’s nice to have the summer, then get back in gear for fall.


It’s something that seems to be lacking in me these days.

I just want to do it all. And sometimes I don’t see anything wrong with that.

But it’s also good to evaluate goals at different points to understand where the progress is going. Or if you’re making progress at all. Or if the goals still mean something.

It doesn’t work to put all your effort into something that you decide isn’t important.

So, what’s the most important thing? Don’t Tell Your Mother is what I want to finish this year for writing projects, which is why I have the rest of the things on hold. Even if they keep beating my brain trying to get out. I’m taking notes, but that’s all.

Hoping they’ll be a little quieter if I’m firm in my focus. The goal is still important to me! Just hang in there, help me rewrite my novel, and I’ll get to the rest of you crazy novel ideas.

I just don’t think they’re listening to me.