I admit it, I wondered whether taking a poetry class would be a good idea. Even though the instructor had a great reputation, I write mostly prose, and the idea of many months devoted to writing something else, and picking up words in another way was...unsettling. Prose is what I’ve studied, and it’s where I feel like I know what I am doing. I plan on spending the rest of my life trying to write better sentences. But to write words but abandon the sentence? That seemed like running with the bulls or wing-walking: I’ve enjoyed other people doing it, but never thought to try it myself.
But the cross-training is proving beneficial. I think about nouns and verbs more, and less about prepositions and adverbs. My ability to use metaphor is stronger, and I have a deeper understanding of words for words sake.
I may not be alone. Crossing genres may be the new black in writing. The prototype from the 20th century is the already dearly missed John Updike. In addition to his novels, his reputation as a short story writer was equally large, and he was known as an insightful critic and also wrote poetry. But cross-genre artists today are more in the vein of Neil Gaiman, (comic book writing, short stories, novels radio plays and screenplays) or like Miranda July (short-story, performance artist, filmmaker).
Writing is writing. We all work in words, so loosen up, read the sections in that literary journal you skipped. And then this week, try to get beyond the boundaries that you have with your writing. Make some comics, write a short film. Don’t get stuck in one genre. Then tell us what you did.