Crossing Genres

Crossing Genres

 

This starts out with writing as the primary focus, but I’ll bring it around to more of a general understanding.

 

If you go to an event, a conference, an MFA program, as a writer, you’ll usually get the same question, “What do you write?” What they mean by that is, “What genre do you write?”

In truth, I write Nonfiction and have been attempting Poetry, a lot. Occasionally, I’ll write Fiction. You’re usually expected to choose only one because that’s what most people do, they choose one and stick to it, they specialize. This helps you in your craft, to focus on being the best at one thing. It also allows you time management. That is, it takes a lot of work to write, let alone write in different ways, and this is most effective. The same can be said for most arts and creative endeavors.

When I was introduced to the concept of Creative Nonfiction, I was also introduced to the concept of using tools from poetry and fiction in writing true stories. That’s why I became adamant on mastering the other genres, or, really, having their basics under my belt.  Using lyrical diction or crafting scenes that flow naturally with dialogue and whatnot, and aren’t just recounting events and facts, are important skills to have. So, when I get asked which genre I stick to, I almost feel insulted. Although, it is still a fair question, it’s necessary for me to have a little of each, even hybridization and experimental forms.

I understand the mindset. Specialization leads to a mastery of craft and form that you can’t get otherwise. But even some of the best painters tried their hands at various styles before settling on their preferred one, and, even then, not all of them stuck to what they became famous for. Still, there is the idea that each genre also has the inclusion of subgenres. Creative Nonfiction has the subgenres of Memoir, Autobiography and Biography, Lyrical Essay, and Immersion writing, to name a few. If you would like to learn more, I recommend Sue William Silverman’s, The Meandering River: An Overview of the Subgenres of Nonfiction. And Fiction has even more.

Typically, even when people will say that they focus on one genre, they probably also mean, even more so, that they focus on a subgenre and rarely have anything to do with the others, let alone another genre altogether. The reality of writing is that it’s difficult to be very good at one style without focusing on it exclusively, but, at the same time, it’s good to have the tools of the others at your disposal. For instance, the lyrical essay demands that you have a background or, at the very least, some experience with poetry or poetic writing. What’s interesting about the lyrical essay is that it can also be interpreted as a prose poem, meaning that it is a genre bending style in and of itself.

If you’re wondering how this might be applicable to outside the arts, there are probably a few ways I could put it. One way that comes to mind is to compare it to a liberal arts degree and a more specialized degree or study. Not to offend anyone. I do want to point out that sticking to one thing is fine and often preferable as it helps you to know more about one subject and be better at it.

Back in 2011, I went to China for a three-week study abroad course with my undergrad, Hiram College. It was a wonderful experience, and we were there during a time of unprecedented exponential economic growth. While we were there, we were introduced to a person who, I believe, was an economist or in that field. He explained to us something that we all found truly odd, China had no concept of liberal degrees. They didn’t even have them.

You see, in that culture, you decided on a profession, went to school for it, graduated, and then got a job in that field for the rest of your life, a concept lost to us Americans. The problem was that the rapid expansion of China’s economy as well as the progression of technology would make some of the people’s jobs either obsolete in a few years after receiving their degree and entering the workforce or make it so that their knowledge on the job was no longer valid/up to date. When this happens, they have nothing to fall back onto. The benefit of a liberal arts degree is the roundedness of it. Yes, there’s no specialization and you tend to have a smaller income, but you have the flexibility in an ever-changing market to do something else, have a focus somewhere else. That’s sort of how I see genre or style crossing in writing and the arts. Well, sometimes. It’s not a perfect analogy. Nobody is perfect though. You know what I mean?

I’m mixed on this, as I hope you can tell. I both want you to cross over to other genres, but, at the same time, I’m telling you that you don’t have to. A singular focus is a good thing to have, especially in the arts. A dabbling in everything is great too. I feel someone will read this with the argument that I’m just talking about a dabbling for mastering a singular style or genre, and that’s somewhat true. I’m not a professional poet. I don’t professionally write novels or short stories. I wouldn’t profess to saying I’ve mastered these things, let alone Creative Nonfiction, for that matter. I am saying that you should try them out, again. Master them to the best of your ability, and if you find you don’t want to stick to them, then go back to whichever genre you prefer. But keep what you learn from the other, it will strengthen whatever you do.

 

All the Best,

Nathan

 

End

Cue Music

Roll Credits

 

 

 

 

 

Music Ends

Credits End

 

 

 

 

 

*Peeks around corner wearing a red and white, striped bathrobe*

*Approaches from back of hallway*

You’re still here?

It’s over.

Go home.

*Retreats to back of hallway*

*Waves hand dismissively*

Go.

*Exits Scene*

Black Screen.

 

What I Talk About When I Talk About 2017.

New Year, New Me?

Yeah no.

My concise thoughts on the matter, if you don’t want to read my long-winded, tangential, ramblings: Forget it. Just be a better you. Otherwise, don’t do anything different. Oh, and fight really, really hard.

There are some things to consider: What do you want to do? What are you doing? What can you improve?

In his book, Psycho-Cybernetics, Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a former plastic surgeon, determined it took 21 days for changes to stick. Later the myth was broken by Phillipa Lally who found it can take about 2 months, 66 days really, on average. That’s a crazy amount of time to make a change and stick to it. Look at THIS Huffington Post article for more information.

Near the start of February 2016, I weighed 210 lbs. I didn’t exercise, and I ate horrendously. I hope you’re aware that’s all bad. I did. I realized my problems. I decided to start eating better, and running and working out nearly every day or every-other-day. Guess how long I kept to it? An entire year. I even plan on keeping it up the following year and the year after that, etc. I’m down 40 lbs. and I’m much healthier.

This is one of those rare occasions where I stick to something and achieve it. But I would say it’s more because of my stubbornness rather than anything else. I hated my appearance and my health, and I was determined to fix it. You know what I go for all my hard work? Clothes that don’t fit right anymore. I’m a writer. It’s not like I can go out on a shopping spree for new clothes. I’m kidding. That’s why belts exist.

I digress.

Most of you is probably fine the way it is. There are things you could work on unlearning like being a jerk, for example. I’m sure, reader, that you’re most likely not a jerk. Really, what you need to do is reflect on the things you view as good that you already do and you think you should do more of… For me, this was writing.

Previously, I mentioned that, before I got a job and before I went to grad school, I was writing a ridiculous 4 hours a day. This diminished greatly to maybe once a week. I knew this was bad even with the commitments of adulthood. What do I do? I make a deal with myself to write once a day. I don’t set a time limit. I try to block a time, but I still keep it flexible. Then I write for as long as I can before something like my work break ends or my stomach decides food is needed. To me, it’s the most important thing to do. I can’t write like the old days, but I don’t want to give it up either. So, I have this solution. It’s not the best, but it is better.

Other important things to consider:

  • What’s your work habit like?
  • How can you improve it?
  • What do you want to work on?
  • What can you realistically work on? (work on the ones you can)

Part II, The Artists

What can I say about 2017 in regards to artists and creators?

*Sigh*

A few things, really. At the very least, the next four years, not just the one, are going to be difficult, more so for some than others. Here is where I’d make a joke if I found it appropriate to do so. Even though people are griping about the severity of 2016, it can, in fact, get worse. This is especially true when you consider that some of the worst parts people refer to tend to be the deaths of celebrities they’ve never met. This is fine. They impacted you at some point. The odds are you probably didn’t know them personally. Although a famous stranger’s death can affect you, it’s not the worst thing that can happen to you. There, I said it.

So, what are we supposed to do with this new year that seems to be the coming possible apocalypse? I have a couple ideas. You don’t have to agree. You also don’t have to disagree. These are thoughts.

As an artist, you are going to be facing a group of people in power who will do all they can to get what they want, and they don’t seem to care about you or most anyone else. This means you need to enter the fray in arenas like socioeconomics and politics, as much as it pains me to say that. Let’s face it, society is in the process of shitting all over itself. You may not feel like this, but it’s the artist’s duty to not only point this out to them but to also assist them in cleaning this mess.

Here you are, thrust into the scene of uncertainty, a bohemian militant. If you can see the wrong, it can see you. Now is the time to fight. Or, really, now is the time to create. Don’t hold back. If someone tells you something is too much, the correct response is, “Fuck you.” Then carry on with what you were doing. Also consider getting rid of that person. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. I think that’s what that is.

It won’t be easy. It won’t be fast. Most everything about it will be painful. It will probably be dangerous at times. If all you want to do is make money off of art, then you’ve come into the wrong time period, with exception to being born into certain races, classes, and sexual orientations. Even then, the world will make no promises.

Part III, Everyone

Take a deep breath. Reflect on your life. What’s going on? What do you want to do? What have you been doing? What of that stuff you’ve been doing can you do better? Think.

I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s important. Don’t accept what people tell you. Or don’t take everything you’re told at face value. Investigate matters. Call your leaders that you chose to represent you and your best interests out on their bullshit. Don’t be offended when other people do the same thing to people you side with; they are simply doing the same for themselves.

Do you care about someone? You should keep caring about them. Unless it goes to shit. Then don’t. Whatever. You’re your own person. Just take care of yourself, and try to cherish what you already have. Do you love someone or something? Does it hurt someone else? If not, then keep loving that someone or something.

Remember to eat well, drink lots of water, and get plenty of rest. Wait. I forget. Are you sick? Never mind.

Part IV, End

It’s the beginning of the year, but I’m talking about the end. Figures.

Here’s the deal, you’re most likely going to be living longer than four years, let alone the one. This makes it important to not only fight through 2017, but all the remaining years of your life. Also, live. Be sure to live. That’s going to be key. Enjoy what you can. Create what and when you can. Think deeply. Love widely. I appreciate you as both a person and a reader, and, despite everything happening, I do hope for the best for you and the people in your life.

 

 

Much love,

Nathan