Stepping Outside Your Genre

By Nan Macy

Categories: Alum Experiences, General, Writing Tips,

At Hedgebrook’s Writing Salon last Saturday, one woman who’s writing a book spoke up at lunch and said she’d been so focusing her attention and energy on tasks to complete her book that she’d sort of developed blinders (my phrase, not hers).  Her experience resonated for me as I’ve done the same in the last year.  She said that when asked in her morning workshop to do an exercise outside her genre/field/topic, she had this internal momentary response of “wait, I’m monogamous to my work.  I don’t date outside of it.”  Once she realized the limits of this closed creativity door, she could free herself to open it and walk through.

I purposely chose playwriting and poetry workshops on Saturday because I don’t consider myself a practitioner of either…and the descriptions sounded like fun.  I had no expectation for myself.  I won’t say I was free of self-consciousness, but I was willing to stretch, to challenge myself.  And I had a blast!

Playwright Elizabeth Heffron’s theme of “leaping in last” was especially energizing to be part of.  I can fully see where the tools she offered cross all storytelling genres.  Being a life-long athlete but never having done theatre (other than drama classes in grade school a long time ago), I loved how the practices Elizabeth offered grounded us and our creativity in our bodies.  And the “po-jacking” techniques that Poet Elizabeth Austen led us through to build skills with language, form, and voice both challenged and inspired me.  Poetry’s hard work!  I love how we engaged our right AND left brains in service to the muse.

What the workshops offered are ways into materials for the sake of craft. And not only craft—as if that weren’t enough!—but also voice, which for me is up right now.  There were so many gifts of Saturday’s “dive into Lady Hedgebrook’s pool.”  The event was perfectly orchestrated, well balanced, and a pure delight.  The food and camaraderie of so many willing sisters of the word sated both body and spirit.  Perhaps what I treasure most are the joyful sense of “what if…?” I carried away from Hedgebrook, and the momentum to live that creative question without clinging to an outcome. That’s leaping all right.

1 Comment

  • Chrys Fey
    4:45 PM - 15 December, 2012

    What I find interesting about my own writing abilities is that even though I tend to stick with supernatural thrillers, I am also capable of stepping into other writing genres effortlessly like romance, mystery, and even western. Also, the topics change dramatically.

    Although I am focusing on finishing the last book in my series, I have many stories (too many to count) that I’ve already started to write that are vastly differently from my series.

    For me, I am skeptical about joining a writing group/workshop because I already have too much writing on my plate and I feel that participating in something where I will have to do more writing will steal my focus, but one day I would love to experience what you described.

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