By: Tim Moraca
Those of us who like to call ourselves writers often focus on penning one genre—fiction, poetry, or creative non-fiction—whichever flows most freely or best captures our artistic intentions. I am a fiction writer. I start an MFA in June in Fiction. Until six months ago, fiction is all I thought I wrote. I thought I’d scare the pants off myself to see what they covered, so I signed up for two creative writing seminars that were not fiction, one in poetry and the other in memoirs.
Self-doubt abounded as I imagined myself rewriting every clichéd ode to nature known to man and mining my twenty-some years for meaning like a drunken blowhard disguised as a sage, bourbon and turban and all. I could tell a story—at least, I’d already convinced myself of such—but what did my petty experience have to offer others, especially as recorded in forms as foreign to me as Sanskrit?
The seminars began, and I did the work; I wrote and wrote and concentrated hard enough to ignore that oh-so-common fear of the unknown. Slowly it dawned on me that I was still just a writer. These were still just words, little measly squiggles of black on white. The words “fiction,” “poetry,” and “creative non-fiction” were divisions of writing created and named to make the universe easier to understand. When the borders between them are overlooked, their unity as “creative writing,” the art form of the written language, emerges. And so it happened that somewhat-seriously practicing my two “off-genres” inherently enhanced my fiction.
Try this exercise:
Pick a passage, any passage—a paragraph or scene you’ve written. Now, write it as a poem on a fresh sheet of paper (or as a fresh file). Don’t simply insert line breaks into the prose; write a brand new piece with the aim of capturing the emotions, characters, events, and/or atmosphere of your selected prose. Don’t obsess over the poem, especially if it’s your first! Half-proud is proud enough for this exercise; you’re not sending it out for publication.
Once completed, read over the poem, treating it as a standalone piece. What is the poem about? Jot down a few words… hunger, the multiverse, kittens, etc. Next, write an essay, titled “On ________ (hunger, the multiverse, kittens, etc.)” Focusing on one word is ideal, but two or three is okay. Let the essay flow, bordering on stream-of-consciousness (e.g., Kittens are fluffy. I love my kitten so much. She looks like a fuzzy little baby human. She is diabolical when she’s hungry, kind of like my sister…) Ahh, the sweet scent of insight.
Complete the circle, allowing the poem and essay to inform a rewrite of the prose. Finally, submit your story, entitled “The Interdimensional Half-Human, Half-Kitten goes to McDonald’s” to the Potomac Review.
Carry on, my fellow writers of everything.