There are so many opinions about whether an author should stick with one genre or should just follow his or her gut and write whatever comes to mind independent of the known genres, or even deliberately try the author’s pen in a new and unknown genre.
I’ve read many books urging for one or another. All quite convincingly.
But I somehow listened more to those that said, “Stick with one genre.”
Apart from that, I had an idea that I had to write a romantic comedy since I loved reading them. But when I actually sat down wrote, something else came out. Suspense. With some romantic touch, but it was more women’s contemporary literature (especially the series “Life Upside Down”) with a lot of suspense and with a breath of a thriller and drama.
Then I started telling to my friends the following, “I will never write memoirs. This is simply not me!”
In reply they shrugged and were a bit surprised that I said that, because none of them asked whether I wanted to write a memoir. I kept saying that, when somebody simply asked me what genres I write. The ever returning and fierce statement “But not memoirs!” made me frown. If nobody asked me to write one, why did I said No aloud?
After some search and contemplation I recalled when this idea of “Memoirs-are-not-for-me” formed for the first time. I’d found a long article about memoirs and read every word of it with eagerness. Somewhere in the middle of my read my thoughts shouted, “No, this is too complicated. The memoirs are not for me. They are too conflicting and will stir too much worry in me and those described in them!”
And from that moment I kept repeating this statement, “Memoirs are not for me! I am writing only in one genre!” Which I could not really identify with since my first novel and the second book are so different. And my blog posts had a completely different shape. I avoided to think of their “shapes” as genres. I still had this idea that I had to and that I did want to stick with one genre.
But why was I so often thinking of memoirs and answering something with a No, which was not questioned by anyone? Who was asking me to write a memoir?
As I relaxed, took a step back and looked at it I had the answer. I was the one who wanted to write a memoir. And the fact was that I already was doing it. In my blog, and in my very first book “The Truth About Family” based on a true story of my father. I have written this book in the first voice as if my father had written his very own memoir.
As I realized this I discovered that a third or fourth genre sneaked into my writing. And these were guide books on business. How did that happen? Quite simply. I discovered a straightforward definition to something seeming complex to me and my colleagues in a technical community for many years and I wanted to share this discovery. So I blogged a book on this. And in the days as I write this, I revise it for publication.
But this is inconsistent with my aspiration to write in one genre!? What should I do now?, I thought as I detected the multiple genres I have been “messing with”.
Awareness and instantaneous transformation came to help again. I chose to look non-judgmentally at why I had this idea that I had to write in only one genre. I realized that this idea went further and claimed that writing in more than one genre would mean delivering writing of bad quality.
I frowned. Really? I read quite a few authors writing in multiple genres and delivering brilliant and memorable books. Take Elizabeth Gilbert and Stephen King for example.
So, why did I choose to listen only to those who said that writers should stick with only one genre? Why did I choose not to listen to others who claimed the opposite. Giving these considerations space, slowly I found the answer.
I took the recommendation by those who said that you have to write in only one genre as an absolute rule, which I had to follow.
I completely forgot that this was a way they have chosen. And that it is utterly human for all of us to urge others to do something what works for us. We all did this at least once in our lives.
But I have forgotten to look whether their recipe worked for me. And when I looked at this I found that it didn’t work for me. Before I considered this non-judgmentally I thought that I was doing something wrong. But the fact was that I didn’t. I simply had my own way.
As I started researching these ideas of mine without judging them and seeing how various cultures influenced me along the way I discovered something else.
I found what was the originating idea to all this, which channelled me to listen only to one-genre-recommendations. As a child I remember to have been told that I could not concentrate a long time on doing one thing. Which is true for many children. But I took it as my personal failure. And I remember that I thought for a long time that I was not good in finishing things.
As recently this idea appeared again I decided to estimate how much and how little I have finished so far on average.
Work projects? Multiple successfully finished.
Books? Right now 5 written and published (three on Amazon and two on my site), plus two more manuscripts finished in the first draft.
Personal projects? Multiple successfully planned and facilitated to be carried out, including wedding and baptizing ceremonies.
And so on.
Unfinished? Yes, of course! But nothing prominent. Nothing, which I really wanted to be finished. Those that I wanted to get through, were seen through.
So, there was I with an answer to a riddle occupying me for a long time. I have listened to some erroneous ideas from long ago and stressed myself by believing them and judging myself for not being able to follow them.
A new question. Was it worth it? To have lived this through, to have experienced and to have investigated this dilemma? Yes. Because now I could tell you about this.
Dear friends, whether it is about writing in various genres or not, I invite you to look what you say No to, especially where nobody outside yourself asks you to do it. And above all look at this, if you say No again and again, and repeat it to many clueless listeners. Can it be that this idea is one of your truest desires, and that the one, who suggests this new idea, your brain so eagerly says No to, could this maybe your heart?
Picture: A fellow pedestrian measuring me critically last week on the streets of Aalborg. I can think of several genres, where he could be featured. I am wondering what kind of story he imagined a big stroller (with my daughter sleeping inside) and me to be in.
“Cheerleading For Writers”, copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels