Learning to accept your Thing in journalism

Being tapped to take on the challenges of a new column on Toronto Life’s website made me realize that if you’re a journalist, you might have a Thing and not even know it.

The column is Sale of the Week, dealing with area home sales and how they relate back to the Toronto real estate market. I was referred to my Toronto Life editor by a former colleague who had worked with me when I was largely responsible for the real estate section of a different local magazine. That writing earned me some of the harshest criticism — as well as some of the highest praise — I’ve ever received and, like most unfamiliar beats, it was extremely hard at first, but became second nature once I got to know the city’s major players and learned to talk shop.

Even as I broke the news about the column to some of my journalist friends at a recent get together, however, I was still coming to grips as to why I was recommended for the byline. It clicked when one of my peers exclaimed, quite matter-of-factly, “Oh, that makes sense. That’s your thing.” Well, that was news to me. Sure, I have the experience, but I never thought of myself as Nicholas Mizera, Real Estate Writer.

I guess I was secretly hoping that, by now, my (paid) Thing would be fashion writing or something awesome like military reporting. But many journalists I know didn’t get into their Thing entirely by choice — they fell into it, somewhat. One of my peers I look up to is an incredibly talented business and entrepreneurship writer who makes a living being regularly featured in the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail and the Financial Post, among others. What you might not know is that he’s also a standout music and pop culture writer; however, when the opportunity to get a paid gig in the business section came knocking, he smartly capitalized upon it and made a name for himself in that niche of journalism.

When your name comes up in certain conversations and your Google results seem to be trying to tell you something — well, maybe you’ve got a Thing on your hands. Even if it’s not quite what you had hoped for, it’s best to identify it and go with the flow, because that’s where those rare paid opportunities lie in the precarious industry of journalism. Who knows, maybe it will lead you on to even newer beats you never thought you would enjoy.

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