“You know that part of your writing that you question – that’s weird and doesn’t fit neatly into a genre or a mold? Write more of that. Please.” Richard Thomas
I needed to see this advice, or permission, today. I wouldn’t say I have writer’s block, more like writer’s ennui, boredom. Fear of starting or moving the story or poem further. Fear of critics?! Eeeee gads! My local writers group convenes monthly to share our writing and “give and get support, constructive feedback”. I’ve decided to take a break from the group precisely because I am exploring writing that is weird, that doesn’t fit the mold, and – they don’t get it. They coach me to stay in the mold, don’t stray outside the familiar. To me, when I am exploring, I don’t want “moldy” writing. I’m not submitting my exploratory drafts to a publisher, for Pete’s sake. I’m just “messing around” with ideas, words, voice, style, and yes – bending genres and molds. My local writing group doesn’t advise me or permit me to explore. Today I use Richard Thomas’ words to give myself permission to explore. Advice to explore, even.
I’m bored with most of the structured traditional forms and content in the writers group, maintaining tight formula beginning, middle, and end, explaining everything for the reader so he or she doesn’t have to, or doesn’t GET to, imagine any details. Teaching literature and structured writing forms perhaps has shown me too much formula in basal readers that students can analyze and use as models for their compostions. Creative writing classes have diminished dramatically in American schools in the last five years.
That local group of writers may be right when they remind me that most people don’t want to think very much about their reading, they don’t want to reread a paragraph or section, even a sentence, to get the meaning, or deepen the meaning. Readers, they say, don’t want to imagine what Harv looked like or how he dressed. They want the writer to tell, or show, them details, details, details. I believe it. ELABORATION is the key to getting higher scores in state standardized writing assessments. And layering ideas is a bonus, too. I am happy to see the Common Core state standards across the nation demanding that students read literature with more complexity and stretch themselves with their writing. Sure, we still use models to teach reading and writing, but now we encourage readers and writers again to try writing “that’s weird, that doesn’t fit neatly into a genre or mold”, to find their voice. I taught verbally gifted or talented kids and I thought all kids should be taught to think about their reading and writing in more depth. To try out new ways of showing their ideas. All kids, all of them. All of us.
The local writing group has no tolerance for my writing where I ask the reader, or listener in storytelling, to use his or her own imagination, where characters and settings, like in Harv, are not always elaborated with details. Another reader, not in the group, said everyone knows a Harv. Don’t describe him, let us imagine the one we know. That’s storytelling, the oral tradition genre, using stock characters liked Raven, Coyote, Hercules, and Harv. Everyone has their own image for stock characters, whatever their names. My local group is uncomfortable with my writing where forms are not fully formed like the spirits emerging through the portal, through the veil from their mystical world into our mortal material realm in the beginning of my LaWrynn Stories.
Today is as good a time as any to write without questioning what’s weird and doesn’t fit a genre or mold. Edgar Allen Poe is known as the “Father of the Short Story” and Walt Whitman is known as the “Father of Free Verse or Blank Verse” poetry because they invented new literary forms, unfamiliar to their contemporary readers. Bram Stoker introduced the setting and mood in “Dracula” by showing the reader unformed forms in his beginning pages. It takes courage to read unfamiliar literary forms and more courage to draft it. tff