3 reasons to write outside your genre
Shawna Ayoub Ainslie talks genre, and the benefits of writing in more than one.
Getting stuck in a genre of writing is the equivalent of typecasting yourself. As a writer, you are no doubt a highly creative individual motivated by wordsmithing. But even the most creative soul can find their art stagnating. If you have ever felt stuck—and haven’t we all?—maybe it isn’t that you don’t have anything to write about. Maybe you just need to break out of a pattern and try a new form or structure.
Consider writing outside your genre, even for a few days. Here’s what you might expect:
You will stretch your empathy.
The best way to get to know someone is to walk a mile in their shoes. That adage applies to writing, too. Want to know what makes an admired writer tick? Spend some time writing in their genre and style. Have you been writing exclusively poetry for years? Try writing that sci-fi story you imagined at summer camp when you were 10. Even if a specific genre is what you write “best,” experimenting in a second one might surprise you, and it might bring new depth and clarity to your first-love genre, too.
You will stretch your skill.
Trying new techniques is guaranteed to grant you new perspective on those you’ve employed in your work thus far. Poetry is great practice for fiction writers because it supports greater focus on word choice and emphasis on the perfect image. One word can carry the “story” of a poem. And sometimes, poets need to take up more space, so expanding into prose can help tell a larger story and provide an opportunity for poets to explore literary techniques that aren’t as common for them, like dialogue, plot, and more. Always write fiction? Try telling the truth. Only write nonfiction? Try inventing a character, setting, or narrative.
You might fall in love.
I began writing poetry, studied fiction and publish nonfiction. As I grew into my writer self, I never considered nonfiction an option. I didn’t think I had “the stuff” to pull it off. One day, I tried it and learned that nonfiction is a much more natural fit for me than fiction or poetry. In fact, many of the short stories I crafted in grad school, I have re-written as nonfiction. They are much better for it, and I feel more at-home in my writing practice.
Have you or will you try to write outside of your usual genre? Share with us in the comments!
Related reading: Which writing form is write for you?
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