You Are Not Your Genre

Power of WordsI’ve been writing for a long time. I think my first story was given to my grandfather when I was maybe 5 or 6. It was short and sweet, more of a comic than anything else. It was a bit crude, and even a bit rude, but he must have liked it since he’s still got it tucked away in a toolbox in his basement. I was that kid all through school that had a book with me instead of a Discman or a Game Boy. I would haul all kinds of tales on my back, along with my school books, and would read away all the painfully slow minutes of school that I could.

I read everything that I could get my hands on. Sometimes I would be tucked away with The Romanovs, by Robert K. Massie, or Dove by Robin L Graham, other times I would read the Harry Potter series and pretend that I was on a train instead of a dusty hot bus. I always had a notebook stowed away too, one that no one was allowed to see. I’d pull it out to entertain myself when I found the world around me to be too boring or stagnant.

I started with poetry, and I wrote a lot of it at first. It varied from dark to inspiring, and I even published one of the more appropriate poems in my graduation yearbook. I suppose that no one ever really got a good look at my private writing up until recently.

When I told my family that I was going to have one of my short stories published, they were excited, as is to be expected. When they asked me what it was about, I was a little apprehensive. I mumbled the word “horror”, hoping that they would be too happy to hear and would maybe even forget all about it. It’s not that I am ashamed of my stories, it is more that they are so different from what I think everyone would expect. It’s not that I am a super bubbly person in real life, I’m not even that cheerful. My mother jokes that I am Spock‘s daughter, if that tells you anything. Logical, undramatic, and ever the realist.

I am shy about my writing. I only let a select few read it, and those are a couple of close friends with a knowledge of my writing and my personality. It’s going to be an experience seeing one of my stories go public, even if it’s only flash fiction in a magazine. What I am trying to tell myself now is that just because I write horror (at the moment), it does not mean that I am a dark and twisted person myself. All it means is that when I feel a story tugging at my fingertips and funneling my vision, something wants to be written. I cannot always control what that is.

I write and edit a lot of business content for clients. This is my bread and butter. What comes out creatively, in my own time, is something completely different. It is my own. It is completely and utterly separate from my work and from what people expect from me. Perhaps it is the thrill of writing something that contrasts my professional writing so blatantly that shapes what I write.

Either way, just remember that whatever you are writing, whatever your genre or story, whatever appears on the page, it doesn’t mean that you are what you have written. Inspiration and drive come from a million different places, some acknowledged and some forgotten. Something as simple as a word could inspire a tale to sprout and grow in your brain. It’s not always within your control, but you should never ignore the need to write.

Have you ever been shy to show someone your writing? Was it because of your genre? Was it because you were afraid of negative feedback? What did you do to get over it, and how did you feel when you did?

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34 thoughts on “You Are Not Your Genre

  1. Great post! This is something I’ve thought of a few times as I too don’t want people to judge me based on the genre I write in, partly because I also often write pieces with dark content. It doesn’t mean we are dark, if anything it’s just a sign of how vivid our imaginations are as for me that’s the joy of writing; creating characters and worlds that are entirely different to our own.

    • Ah, a kindred soul! I love that you said it’s a sign of how vivid our imaginations are—I agree. I find it very freeing to create things that are so different from anything else and I hope I also find it freeing when other people start to read it.

  2. I’m still finding my way, but some of the writing I have done I have shared only with my husband because he is ever so blunt with his feedback, which helps me narrow my thoughts. I think fear of rejection is what stops us the most from sharing, we are exposing ourselves which leaves us vulnerable.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and congrats on being published! 🙂

    • Thanks! My husband isn’t much of a reader, so he just tells me that everything is “good”, haha. I have a small team of like-minded friends that get to see my work before anyone else, and they’re very helpful with critiques, suggestions, and advice. My stories wouldn’t be quite as good without them.

  3. I’m never shy about my writing (I might become that way though when I try my hand at erotica later this year). I love writing and sharing my work with people, though I know some will not want to read it. And I’m not twisted either. Well…maybe just a little. I’m so into horror that sometimes it mixes with my normal wild, funny personality. That’s life, I guess.

    • I guess it depends on what we are writing. I don’t love sharing, haha, but I am going to have to get used to it since I have started submitting stories this year. It’s not necessarily the fear of rejection, but more the dislike of sharing personal things with strangers!

  4. I am always, always scared to share my writing with people. I deal with really mature themes in my fiction—self-harm, addiction, abuse, etc—but I have not experienced most of these things firsthand. I’m always worried people will think I’m just a messed-up, emo teenager who just wants to be edgy or who will “grow out of it”, rather than someone who just wants to understand and learn from the experiences of those around her.

    Great post, by the way 🙂

    • Thanks! It’s good to hear that I am not the only one. I think the trouble comes from writing in a genre that is so completely different from my personality. I definitely don’t want to experience what I write about, but a lot of it deals with deeper meanings than what you think at first.

  5. Writing is such a vulnerable thing to do, putting something so dear to your heart out there to be judged by others. Your writing addicting though!! 🙂

    • That’s exactly how I feel! Business writing is fine, but my own stories are a piece of me and it’s difficult to share them because they are so different from what people expect from me.

  6. This is a great topic, especially if you are young (like me) and still living under your parents’ roof. I’m lucky that my mother is an avid reader herself who is open-minded about art and literature, otherwise she and my dad would probably have shipped me off to a psychology ward somewhere a long time ago! I think many non-writers or non-serious-readers don’t understand that literature can be a very “dangerous” place with scary things, but these scary things are largely sensationalized and do not reflect the author (necessarily). As a kid whenever my mother read my work one of the first things she’d say would be “This is not a happy story” or even “this is not a story for kids!” (even though I was a kid). I just shrug my shoulders though. Just because your characters are messed up, doesn’t mean you are. And in a way, writing down your messed-up-ness as characters is a healthy, mental release. Who knows? If you didn’t…you may be one of those horror characters now :O

    • Precisely! I think another commenter on this post said it perfectly, and I am paraphrasing here: “when we write things like that, it just shows that we have avid imaginations”. I can’t help it if my mind runs wild with the horrible and spectacular, that’s just what comes out. Most of what my family has seen to this point has been “nice” stuff, so I am sure that they will be surprised when they read my story, but hopefully in a good way.

    • I embrace the fact that I write horror, and I revel in what I write when I read it over. I like that I write those, and my style really suits them well (in my opinion, of course). I embrace the side of me that leans towards the darker side of things as I have never been a “happy happy joy joy” type of person. They suit my personality, for those that really know me.

  7. I’ve never had a huge problem with being considered my genre – it’s basically all fantasy – but the thought that someone might assume a stance a character had was secretly/not secretly a stance I myself had, that was terrifying. The big example is the character who is a huge homophobe. I don’t want people to think that I have anything against gay people. I really, truly don’t. I just have a character who is a homophobe – and for reasons that make pretty good sense. I’m also still quite hesitant to fully describe some of my more heinous villains too, because all I can think is that the reaction’s going to be, “Why would you write that!?” I say my serial rapist is a womanizer for just that reason. Womanizer is not nearly the correct description, not even close. He’s got some important roles to play because of his insatiable lust, I didn’t just say, “Hey, you know what I want to write? A serial rapist!” but I’m still super afraid people will think, “You’re twisted.” It won’t matter he’s one of my few characters that I actually completely despise. Or that part of why I make his death so delicious is because I have to, for myself. No. People will think less of me for writing him at all.
    Any character that thinks differently than me on a major point, I don’t like telling other people about them because I don’t want to me misunderstood.

    • I am a little different in that. I want my characters to be dark and twisted when it suits, and I am not afraid of being judged for them. It’s more the premise or the plot that I worry about. For me, a character is a character, even though I made them. The story, now that is from me down to the core. That’s where I feel wary.

      • I’ve never actually met someone who found themselves in the plot rather than the characters, so it’s really interesting to see that different point of view. In private, I like to make characters twisted when necessary – but they’re all just people, and they fit in the story, and I’m afraid other people won’t get that, they won’t understand they’re not pieces of me personally. I hadn’t thought about people seeing me in the plot.

  8. “…when I feel a story tugging at my fingertips and funneling my vision, something wants to be written….” I love your description of the need that comes upon you to write.

  9. Pingback: The Study of Assumptions | Quoth The Wordsmith

  10. I was extremely apprehensive of showing any of my writing to my family for fear of what they might say. Some of them have been remarkably supportive and encouraging of my work while others less so. Strangely, I find it easier to receive con crit from strangers than I do someone close to me.

    • It’s hard with family because they have been there, in some cases, for most of your life, if not all of it. It’s easier for them to relate things that happened to your story because they know your own. I have a few friends that are really good at giving me feedback, and they are also writers, so they never assume that what I write is based on truth. One of them has been my best friend for just about 16 years now, so it’s freeing to be able to show him my work without worrying if he’ll draw connections that just aren’t there.

      • I completely agree with your comments re showing pieces to family; the amount of times that I’ve been asked whether I was writing about family members or certain situations never ceases to amaze me.

  11. I’ve always wondered about the kinds of people that write horror. It’s a genre I have a lot of trouble reading (not because the stories are bad, I just don’t like being scaring myself for fun ^^) I’ve always thought about the kinds of people it would take to write that kind of content, so it’s really interesting to hear your take on it. Contrary to you, I’ve always felt like I really was my genre because I write stream of consciousness stuff. But it had never really occurred to me that I could just attempt a different type of writing to portray a different set of thoughts/ideas/inspiration.

    • I encourage everyone to try different genres, no matter what you are comfortable in. It allows for knowledge and understanding of different types of writing, as well as giving the writer an idea as to where their skills are.

  12. I always thought it was fascinating how a person’s stories or writing style doesn’t usually match their exterior personality – at least the personality they are projecting to other people. My family and friends are always mildly surprised at the fiction I write, because it always seems more serious than I apparently come across to them. My sister, on the other hand, always surprises people by how riotously funny she is, when she appears more quiet and serious.

    I guess you can never assume that how a person appears is the sum total of who they are. And imagination, I think, gives us the ability to reach beyond our own personality and experiences.

    What a great post!

    • I’m a much nicer person than what my stories show! 🙂 It’s funny how people really are once you even get to know them a little bit. Sometimes they are much more warm, caring, funny, intelligent, etc. Sometimes they are worse than you though! Haha!

      So glad that you enjoyed the post. Thank you for your words!

  13. Pingback: Who Are You When You Write? | Quoth The Wordsmith

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