I find it odd being told that something is ‘my genre’. I was told this on Saturday in my writing group. I had brought along two short, humorous poems which were both extremely well received. One of the comments made later was that this was clearly ‘my genre’, and was much more enjoyable than some of my other, darker stuff.
I feel like I have to take it as a compliment, and I’m sure it was certainly intended as one, but I was also left feeling slightly off kilter. I mean sure, I appreciate that you’re suggesting that my voice is much more natural in this format, or that you connected more with the piece, for whatever reason, but there is still this niggling voice inside me that says “This isn’t what I want”. This isn’t the genre I feel most natural writing in. This isn’t the genre I feel expresses what I want to express. This isn’t the genre that is the first way I think of trying to get something out of my brain and onto a page. It’s a way, certainly, but not my preferred way. I like to write prose. I like things which are tinged with darkness. Nothing too dark though, I don’t want to exhaust or alienate the reader, but still a definite undercurrent.
I think deep inside me there is a nastiness lurking. The timing for this particular revelation is interesting because in my acting class last Wednesday I was asked to convince another student to give up something of great importance. For the purposes of the improvisation scene the thing I had to get from him was a job in TV that was going to be offered to him. If I could get him to withdraw they would have to give it to me. In the beginning I tried to undermine the job, to portray it as difficult, or not worthwhile, to paint the employers as bad people, but that didn’t seem to get much traction. It was only when I started probing about this his motives that I started to get somewhere.
It went something like this:
Me: Why do you even want this job?
Him: I don’t like my job now, I want something more.
Me: How long have you wanted to do this?
Him: About ten years.
Me: So why now?
Him: I take risks.
Me: You clearly don’t, you’ve been in a job you hate for ten years.
Part of me felt like I had used all of my powers of empathy for evil. Part of me felt slightly dirty for having used those sentiments against him. But mostly I felt triumphant; I knew that I’d sewn the seed of doubt in his mind and I just had to chip away at it to get him to give up. Just at that moment the teacher called the end of the exercise, but I could see that the other student was a little bit shaken. And I felt powerful.
I seem to have wandered off the topic that I started on somewhat, but I think it’s all relevant ( I think it came from that bit about darkness). Just because I’m good at writing light-hearted verse about my fight with a can opener doesn’t mean it’s what I want my career as a writer to be. It was as though I was being tempted by praise to do what I always did before; keep doing what I was good at (read things I was praised for). This is not the time to do what I’m good at, this is the time to do what I enjoy, and get good at it. Practise it until I reach that same level of audience enjoyment.
Either that or I just admit that this particular woman likes funny poems and it’s not really deeper than that.