Dear Writers, Quit Letting Genre Define You

Nothing frustrates me more than seeing a person give up on a good idea because it’s not in their genre. Versatility is a natural asset to many writers, so to stop ourselves from writing a serious piece because we’re supposed to be working on comedic skits is a damn-near tragedy.

Say it with me:

Genre is for other people. Not for you.

What do I mean by that? I mean that genre exists so people can find, categorize, and store your work. Genre does not exist to stop you from writing whatever the hell you want because you might be out of bounds.

Great writers write in many genres, and great works border on multiple genres. Let’s think:

Gloria Anzaldúa 

Poet, writer, theorist, scholar, badass. What would we lose if she had limited herself to poetry alone?

Walt Whitman 

Poet, essayist, journalist, humanist. Leaves of Grass is just the tip of the iceberg.

bell hooks

poet, author, critic, theorist. Feminist film criticism wouldn’t have legs to stand on.

Slaughterhouse Five

Kurt Vonnegut’s semi-autobiographical account of World War II hits the bliss point between funny and tragic.

Juno

Juno is the dramedy of my generation. I effing love this movie. It’s funny, it’s serious, its original. Juno is a very specific flavor of person, and that’s what makes it so special.

Much Ado About Nothing

Is this dramedy a farce on gossip? Shakespeare did it right. This play is as funny as it is good theater.

So dear writers, quit letting genre define you. Don’t box yourself in. Journalists can write poems, poets can write screenplays, novelists can do flash fiction. Challenge yourself to be versatile. Try on different voices, styles, lengths, cadences. It’s all fair game. Just do your best and say something new.