Thursday, June 14, 2012 | By: Brianna

Is This Ironic?

I don't know how many times I've gone through the story of my writing history, but I do know that I know it like the back of my hand.

All through grammar school, we were required to do something that was called Young Authors.  It's where you write a story and have your mom type it (because what 6-year old can type?), and you illustrate your own story.  You have to figure out how you want to set up each of the pages and you create a cover page and all that, and sometimes you even write an "author's biography" if you're feeling extra creative.  Needless to say, I always loved this project.  In 3rd grade we started having an outside teacher come in and take us from our regular class to teach us creative writing.  3rd through 6th grade creative writing was spent in a circle in the lunchroom where we read stories aloud, "recalled" what we had read the previous week, and doing writing exercises that resulted in story beginnings or full stories.  I don't remember if we ever had to re-write any of our stories, but I do remember that we had to finish a couple and turn them in.  Well, we turned a lot of them in, but--never mind.  At the end of 6th grade we had individual conferences with our creative writing teacher.  I still remember my conference because my teacher told me that I had a huge vocabulary for my age and that it was probably from all the reading that I did.  Oh how I wish that was the case now.  She also told me, "All things in the world have already been written.  Bad writers borrow.  Good writers steal."  Which I still use as my mantra.

In 7th and 8th grade, I was at a different school.  There was one English class that had us write stories for our vocabulary words, and needless to say, I always managed to write really creative stuff.  Considering it was a generally loathed assignment.  At least, by other people.  Put a lot of my creativity into my class projects, and that's about it.  Oh.  But I almost forgot.  In 7th grade, during our speech class, the head of our little middle school decided it would be a good idea to bring in this creepy poet man to teach us poetry.  I immediately hated writing poetry.  Mostly because this poet man was super creepy and overdramatic, and I wrote horrible, awful, terrible poetry that the head of our middle school actually thought was good, how wrong she was.

In high school, I did a lot of theatre.  So I wrote scenes and one act plays.  Generally considered myself a fiction writer because of my loathing for poetry.  I kept a notebook in my backpack at all times and used it to jot down ideas and words and the like.

Senior year of high school, I took a creative writing class because I had room in my schedule.  When you take creative writing, you usually have to write poetry at some point.  I hated it, but I took pride in my ability to write poetry from the perspective of a backpack or weird things like that.  That's when I wrote a love sonnet to a book and my teacher liked it so she suggested I submit it to our arts magazine.  It got published.  I didn't think it was a big deal, I hated poetry and I wrote fiction.

College, and I entered undecided as far as major but spent the majority of my first year finding things that allowed me to say, "This is why I should be an English major."  So I declared an English major and took a creative writing class.  Guess what?  Had to write poetry.  Really didn't like it, though I wrote a couple poems that my professor really liked.  No idea why.
Sophomore year, I took a fiction class in the first semester and wrote a really awful story about a juggler and pickles, but the rest of my stories were pretty decent and well received.  Thought I would take a creative non-fiction class in the spring and couldn't get into the class, so ended up in Writing Poetry.  After class registration I spent the rest of the semester complaining and moping that I would be forced to write poetry and how much I would hate it.  Then I liked the professor and she actually got me thinking about poetry.  Took myself WAY too seriously at the beginning and wrote an awful poem about a photograph, but then loosened up and wrote about lawn flamingos.  Left the class liking poetry significantly more than before.
Junior year, I took Stand Up Poetry and the Lyric Essay, both more poetic than traditional fiction.  Loved Stand Up, iffy on Lyric Essay, did really well and wrote some awesome things.  (Yes, I'm modest, whatever.)  Spring semester, I took a short story cycle class with the same professor I had written the juggling pickles story for.  He told me to "Let the Real Brianna write."  No idea what that meant, still no idea now, had a major identity crisis, produced a lot of shit fiction.
Senior year, I started the Poem-A-Day Project to keep me writing and took a re-do of Writing Fiction so I could write more fiction.  I'd like to think that I wrote better fiction in that class than I did in the short story cycle class...but who knows.

Point being, somehow after loathing poetry for about four years, I established myself as a poet on campus.  I got poetry published in our literary magazine, I performed poetry at open mic events, and with the Poem-A-Day Project I got people who knew me talking about my poetic pursuits.  After considering myself a fiction writer for approximately forever, I've become known as a poet, and I don't know what to call myself.

I'm flattered by the idea that I can call myself a poet and that other people do.  And generally "poet" is significantly more romantic than "fiction writer."

My biggest problem has now become the question: am I a one trick pony?  I've talked to my friends who are writers, and the general opinion is that you're usually good at one or the other: fiction or poetry.  After years of believing that I was good at fiction, I'm not really ready to admit that I might not be anymore.  Can you really just lose an ability to write decent fiction?  Or is it that I'm surrounding myself by people who will forever be able to compare my fiction to my poetry?  But would it really be fair if I asked someone to judge my fiction without reading my poetry?  I don't like thinking that I have to choose.  I don't do decisions, and I don't like being boxed.  I don't want to have to say, "Oh, I write only poetry in free verse that involves lots of similes and sometimes smatterings of concrete imagery."  Do you know how small that box is?  I can't even turn around in this box.  Just thinking of this box makes me want to scream and cry and tear carpet squares into tiny bits of fluff confetti.

What I'm saying is: Now what?  How can I convince people that I'm equally good at both?  Or how can I reconcile the fact that I'll never be as good at fiction as I am with poetry?  Do I have to?  Or can I delude myself into believing that I'm the Grand Master of Awesome as far as writing goes in any form?

"Poetry is prose, bent out of shape." - J. Patrick Lewis


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