Take Your Time: Discovering Your Writing Platform

On Saturday, five friends of mine – three Muslim women from Iraq, two Christian women from Honduras – came to a women’s breakfast at my church.  I loved this.  At times it seems like the whole world is in crisis, but here were six women from different cultures, different experiences, and different languages, and all holding hands and smiling for a photo.

I love this picture, in part because it represents some of my favorite issues: faith, family, culture, and teaching, all in one setting.

Writers often get asked, “What’s your platform?”  This is supposed to be a writer’s area of expertise, a topic that the author returns to again and again, developing a strong reputation as an expert.  I haven’t wanted a platform, because, well…it sounds boring.

More than pain, more than conflict, more than not being able to pay my bills, I hate being bored.  This is one of the reasons I loved teaching: no matter how bad it was, I never, ever looked at the clock and thought, “Whoa, I still have six hours left.”  (Unless, of course, I was grading papers.)  No – when you’re teaching, 2:05 comes so fast that you’re left barely able to keep your body from sliding out of your chair.

Limiting myself to writing about, say, hyperthermophiles for the rest of my life, or even teaching or parenting kids from a Christian perspective sounded like a fast way to kill my joy.

I am on a crusade to kill the joy-killers in my life.

Anyway, over the past months, my writing has started to coalesce around certain themes – the very same themes that show up in the photo with my friends.  So now, when I sign off my query letters to editors, I say something like, “I write about faith, parenting, teaching, writing, and social issues”.  This still feels broad enough to give me room to follow topics that attract me, and hopefully it gives editors something to hook their own thinking to as they decide whether or not to use me as a writer.  If the publication was primarily for moms, I’d tailor it to say, “I write about parenting”.  The beauty, for me, is allowing myself enough ideas to never feel stagnant.

If you’re a writer, I challenge you to not give yourself an artificial platform too soon.  Instead, write about what you love, and watch to see what the patterns are.  Look to your own life – to the photos and memories and passions and issues that excite you.  I believe we’ll be better writers when we take the time to discover our natural passions.


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