Have you ever liked an author’s second book more than, let’s say, their first? It’s not that an author’s latest book is better; it may be because the writing was different. You may have enjoyed their work of fiction over their first nonfiction book.
I’ve always been a writer. I journaled through my anxious teens and in college, I recorded life’s contemplations. Then onto my early twenties where pages saw some loneliness with a little fear as I entered an unknown working and dating world. And then came BlogSpot, a new blogging thing, where I created “Magical Thinking,” a place to share my thoughts about connections, self-discovery and meaning. This is where a bit of magic was made. Stories were born here. Magic turned into essays, a few published, and then to Under the Birch Tree, a published memoir. First-person writing was the only way I had learned to communicate and to connect with readers through sharing my relatable stories. Up until now, I had lived and breathed memoir. But now I recognize a change is happening.
Writers are like pack animals. They search for a tribe to join. Whether through a tribe of writing groups, workshops, retreats, conferences, or any other social means, writers have packs from which to choose. Tribes can offer writers help and direction, and emotional support too through conversation and sharing of work.
But writers aren’t necessarily tribe members for reasons one might assume. Writers can give each other an okay to change their writing to something they’ve never before considered.
As a member of a recent writing workshop of mostly fiction writers, we learned how to best use a literary device in our writing. As I listened to authors reading results of their writing prompts, I thought about Under the Birch Tree (as a strong example of this device) and then I considered how I might use it in fiction writing. My new thoughts were a spark, an affirmation that I was open to shifting my perspective—one from all things memoir—to fiction. Being in a pack with fellow authors at a workshop gave me a green light, a consideration in a covert way, that it was okay to change my writing.
I wish Magical Thinking was still around so I could see the beginnings of my writing and compare it to how it is today. I don’t think my writing would have won any awards! but I do believe a gem or two was hidden in cracks in the paragraphs.
There’s something about having a look at your footing from the past to see how high you’ve climbed a hill . . . and what’s there for you on the other side.
Maybe I’ve outgrown the genre after decades of personal writing where a blog, published essays, then to a published book became markers of evolution in my writing life. But being a pack member in a writing workshop was an opportunity to stretch out and to see a go-ahead to shift my writing to something other than memoir.
Do you write fiction and memoir? Do you prefer writing one or the other? What made you consider writing in a different genre?