Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Nipping Off Interests?

An old friend from church called a few days ago, telling me, "Forget about writing novels. You should be a poet! Write more poems like the ones in your blog, and then publish a book of them."

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.


  1. I been writing for what seems like forever, and one of my favorite writer hobbies is to read books about writing. Many of these books are just pep talks, but some get down to the nuts and bolts of writing and how to make a living. These books on being a paid writer always talk about having dozens of projects going at once-novels, short stories, articles, and if your so inclined, poems, plays, or chicken soup recipes.

    The real money is writing bestsellers and optioning screenplays, but I have never exactly figured how to be the next JK Rowling or Stephenie Meyer.

    So write as much as you can in as many forms as you can. Write novels to support your poetry habit. Write screenplays to support you playwright habit.

  2. That's it! They're HABITS...

    If only I weren't an addict, I'd... have nothing to write about... and I'd be completely boring...

  3. Do what you love... why stop? I don't get it... stopping at one will hurt you in the other two. I agree doing different thing to grow everything; sounds like a win-win-win.

    Best of luck, I know you will make it one day... and when you do I want a singed copy of whatever it is.


  4. Of course there's no reason for you to stop writing in any form! Just keep forging ahead with all of it.

  5. I play with poetry just cuz I can do it in smaller bits ... it lets me keep my ~pen~ in the creative writing pool even when I'm too swamped to spend much time on longer works

  6. One genre only? Pshaw!

    I'm never for arbitrary self-imposed limitations.

    Yes, I'm still mostly dead.

  7. I'm glad I'm not the only one still dabbling!

    (Sorry you're still sick, Stephanie)

    As soon as I get all these stupid papers graded, I'm back to it!

    Thanks for the support, everyone!

  8. I got bored with most other forms than the one I practice now. And now I find that I need to polish the other forms if I am going to retain the essence of writing them. Ah though to what motivation though, should I write prose fiction?

    But then I am no judge, I simply sit and write and let what needs be written write itself, let it shape itself into whatever form seems right for the chunk I am carving from.

    I am a man with no ambition other than to show the nakedness of self that can allow others to get naked too, peeling the layers is no real thought process.