What do tree trunks and keyholes have in common?

Two years ago, I did a mentorship course called Dream Machine with Chris Oatley. A few weeks in, we were asked to do something that is very scary for a lot of people: we were asked to choose what we’d specialize in.
Of course, a lot of people struggled with this idea. It gives you FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) – what if you can’t do that other really cool thing that you want to do?

Here’s where the keyhole and tree trunk analogy comes in. If you keep this analogy in mind, it might be easier to get over the fear of choosing; what the keyhole and tree trunk have in common is that you’re choosing for now, not for forever.

We humans have a finite amount of energy, and a finite amount of hours in the day. That means that we have to pick and choose our skills, activities and focus.

The keyhole analogy focuses on the fact that you’re going to take all the skills that you have, and you’re going to choose one as the key to open the door for you in your chosen direction. If you pour all your energy into your chosen key-skill, the door will unlock much sooner. As soon as the door is open, you have more freedom again to pursue other ambitions.

The tree trunk analogy is similar in that you choose one skill to spend your precious time on at the start. Once you’re safely growing, you can start to branch out to other specialties.

For some real world examples: consider Apple. They started building the most user-friendly home computer and continued doing that for years. Once they were an established brand, they branched out to phones, laptops, tablets, keychains, pens, accessories, etc.

What does this mean for you? It means that you should consider focusing on your one specialty to help you kickstart your career. Become “top of mind”, as they say, for your chosen genre of writing before trying to put out books in YA, high fantasy, romance and non-fiction all at once.