It never fails. I meet another writer, a reader, or just another human who is interested in passing the time talking about books and writing, and they ask me, “What genre do you write?”
It’s an expected question that will provoke a polite response. Or at least, I hope I come across polite. I was raised to be well mannered, but as I get older, I tend to be snarky, a little fuller of piss and vinegar. And, if I’m completely honest (which is the point, right), behind the polite façade you can be sure there is sighing and a lot of eye-rolling.
The question as well-meaning as it is truly baffles me. I usually end up stuttering something that doesn’t make sense and includes words like “women’s fiction,” “psychological thrillers,” “human interest fiction.” Terms that when bundled together do not necessarily form a tight nicely wrapped package that is readily identifiable.
What I really want to say is, “Why must I choose what I want to write about and write it in a manner that will allow it to fit nicely on the appropriate shelf in the bookstore?”
Yes, yes, I know. I must identify my genre so that bookstores know how to market the damn thing, and so readers will know exactly what they’re getting into when they pick up my book. But, as a creative thinker, what’s the fun in being typecasted?
Inspiration speaks to me in an overabundance of tongues. Sometimes it shakes me awake in the middle of the night and urges me to tell the story of the dying grandmother who is coming to terms with her failings as a mother. That’s a story I told when I wrote Legacy, an Anthology. Other times, inspiration whispers in my year when I’m driving on the highway, and I witness a man walking alongside the road carrying a duffle bag and eating from a bag of chips. His hair is just long enough to touch the collar of his shirt and his nose sunburnt. Where is he going? What is his story? Would his story fit well within my genre?
Wait. What? No. If his story doesn’t fit within by supposed genre, does that mean it shouldn’t be told? Of course not. Inspiration spoke to me. Why would I ignore that?
So, here’s the thing. I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I am the no-genre writer. For as long as I can put pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard), I’m going to tell the stories that inspire me and conjure a deep passion. I mean, what the point in pursuing a creative life if I’m limiting myself? Will these stories always fit snug within a particular category? Probably not. And, I’m okay with that.
What’s the takeaway from this little rant?
Whether you’re a reader, writer, or just another human interested in reading and writing, don’t limit yourself. There are a lot of characters waiting to tell you their stories if you’re willing to listen because other no-genre writers like me are excited to introduce you to them.