Friday, October 2, 2009


Perhaps the most telling sign of my immaturity as a writer is my lack of direction.   As I exclaimed so dramatically in my last post, “I don’t even have a genre.” 

In school, my teachers always made me stretch my writer’s muscles and experiment with a multitude of forms.  Now, I feel the overwhelming need become more focused and purposeful.  

I have undoubtedly begun to write more fluently under the inscrutable eye of the world wide web. Still, genre eludes me.  And I have the nagging sense that until that point becomes clear I am stuck in a quagmire.  

This sort of decision making has always been a trial to me.  When I was applying to graduate school, I asked one administrator if I had a better chance to get in if I studied to be an elementary school teacher rather than a secondary one.  She scoffed at the thought.

“Well, personally,”  she condescended, “I think you can only be one or the other.  If you’re meant to be a secondary teacher you’ll be no good in elementary.”

I disagree.  (And fortunately middle school offers me the both/and solution I was looking for.)  But is this theory true in writing?   Can you dip into many wells or are you meant to be loyal to only one genre?  How do you know what you are meant to write?

Pondering these questions I have collected the following reflections on various genres:
~Poetry: The most manageable and satisfying to craft but the hardest to truly master.  I love it and fear it.

~The Novel: An impossible dream.  Beautiful and subtle, compelling and rich, yet fearsome to undertake, let alone finish.

~Nonfiction: Tempting because it is by nature helpful to readers and I want to create something helpful.  Lamentably, it can be dry and more importantly I am not really an expert on anything. 

~Memoir: The crowning achievement of any writer’s life.   At the moment, however, perhaps a bit too presumptuous.  

~Short Story: A good compromise between the poem and the novel.  Yet, it bears the difficulties of both.  It is distilled so that every word must be gold and yet it must have an ending that wraps up all the loose ends .  I fear I am not that succinct.  

There are certainly other genres to explore but those are the ones I am rummaging through at the moment.   Which ones have you explored?


  1. Hi Kate,

    I found your blog through a comment you left on my blog, Novelist's Cafe. You have a great blog here and I love the title of it.

    One way to find your genre is to look at what you love to read. What moves you? What keeps you up at night turning the pages? In the library or bookstore, which section do you automatically gravitate toward?

    As for poems, novels, short stories, they are not genres. They are merely the forms through which we share our words. Any writer can become skilled in these forms.

    I've written two novels. My first novel was in the suspense genre. When I was done writing it, I realized that was not the genre for me. While I enjoyed the act of writing, I didn't enjoy suspense.

    Some might say I lost the time or attention that I could have put into something I really wanted to write. However, I gained experience in writing that novel. I learned valuable lessons you can't learn anywhere but from writing itself.

    My point in telling you this is to encourage you not to let concerns like genre take you away from writing. You are a writer. Your job is to write. Eventually, you will stumble across your genre. In the meantime, keep writing and writing and writing. ;)


  2. Hi Debra,
    Thank you for taking the time to check out my blog. I really appreciate your feedback. I found it to be encouraging and full of guidance- both of which I desperately need. I am especially grateful that you shared your own experience publishing in a genre you realized was not for you. Your insight hit upon the very thing that kept nagging at me. I will be frequenting the Novelist’s Cafe to glean more wisdom from you.

  3. Hi, Kate! I wanted to say that I just came across your blog today and I read the whole thing. I can relate to many of the things you have written about writing, even though I am not even really trying to be a writer - but, I, like you, feel drawn to write. I appreciate your honesty in sharing what you are learning, and I think there are some amazingly beautiful images, phrases and thoughts expressed in this blog. I was particularly interested to read this post about Genre, and to read Debra's comment. I was just saying to my husband Corey last night that I love to write but the only thing I ever write about is myself and Senegal, where we live. It seems on the one hand so wrong to always be writing about people, villages, situations, and stories that we have experienced ourselves, but I can't imagine just making up characters or a story... so although I write a lot and many people who love us and who support what we are doing here read my writing regularly...I wonder if there is some other kind of writing I should be pursuing, if I am being self-centered spending all my time crafting short true articles about our lives here... I'm blabbering, but, the point is, I can relate to your desire to write something that fits into a definable, respectable genre!