About a month ago, my husband suggested I concentrate on my playwriting, since it's where I write my best work (in his opinion), and where I'm achieving the most success.
I've written several short prose pieces for writing groups lately, and with each one, other writers encourage me with, "You should turn that into a novel!"
So, which is it? According to a professor with whom I interviewed at Indiana State, "No great writers ever achieve success in more than one genre." He was obviously ignoring all the exceptions, from William Shakespeare to Emily Bronte to D. H. Lawrence. Okay, he was obviously an idiot. I knew that then. I know it now.
The truth is, practicing poetry helps hone one's prose, for one becomes attuned to the sound of language, learning to say meaningful things in as few words as possible. And poetry is the best choice on days when I don't want to use punctuation or obey rules.
And prose is great practice for keeping the plot moving, concentrating on more than one element at the same time (scenery, action, dialogue) without losing track. A tough job for this Piscean, yes, but great practice!
Playwriting has similar qualities to poetry, for it does depend on the rhythms of language--yet this language is all spoken aloud, and in dialogue between characters. This dialogue has poetic elements, but it still needs to fit into (usually) more realistically spoken conversation between characters, so the rhythms have to be more subtle.
Even my other pursuits feed into these. Painting helps me visualize setting in prose, images in poetry, and the scenes themselves in playwriting. Colors, shapes, and textures all play into these--textures seeping into my poetry and prose so that readers can feel as well as see what is going on.
Music leads directly into all three genres, helping me practice mood, pacing, and rhythm. I even incorporated a scene of total pantomime into one recent play, set to music played on a bass violin. Even now I listen to music when I write certain scenes or poems, hoping to capture the mood of a piece of music as I write. Some of my characters have theme songs, which I hum as I write.
So do I really need to pick one genre and stick with it? I joked with my husband that none of my pursuits had panned out as of yet, so why abandon any of them?
Honestly, even if one brings me some success, I doubt I'll ever put any of the other ones down.