Oh, joy of genres

A popular leaflet among northeastern folk club denizens of the ’80s and ’90s

Today I’m penning a paean to variety. I’ve written in quite a few genres, in my time, and that’s been a continuing joy.

In my childhood, I was intrigued by the rhythm of poetry (thanks Robert Service!). Then as an adolescent I became enamoured with the stylistic strictures of scientific papers. In university I branched out, reading from Shakespeare to 20th century writers. A thesis has its own approach, and at the end of that I discovered the power of a passionate letter. Along the way, in emotional distress, I tried my hand at a novel, but was soon disabused of any sense that I had talent on that front.

Publishing in science journals became a career motivation, for the next quarter century, but I gradually segued to grantsmanship. What we know now, what we plan to do, and what we hope to know by the end of the grant contract. It turned out that writing grant applications for the village hall’s redevelopment was not much different from those I’d done for the laboratory. It was writing for money, in a word.

I grew to love writing annual reports, and then came the country-wide Village of the Year competition. That required a comprehensive description of our community, which I seemed to assume as a project. When the VoTY competition was over and Allendale was named Village of the Year for all England, I was asked to make a kind of speech about the result, which I did, seeking to emulate the rhythm of Robbie Burns’ poetry. That was great fun.

Eventually the time came to hand over the stewardship of hall and recreation ground, and I felt bereft. So I decided to create a daily diary, which would describe life in our community a decade on from the VoTY project. I felt uniquely placed to do that, having worked on a small series of village directories over my decade of stewardship, and Allendale Diary was the eventual result. That gave me discipline, writing a journal entry every day for a year. Another kind of writing, a different joy.

For reasons that are not at all clear, in retirement I decided I would try, seriously, to learn how to write novels. Perhaps this ambition was a response to a health crisis, who knows? But while my first attempt several decades hence had been faltering, my second attempt was merely turgid, dense and boring. Except for the imagination that finally emerged at the end of my effort, the part I called the seventh generation. I was imagining the future.

So I embarked on a science fiction odyssey into foreseeable times ahead. I can’t quite describe the persistent joy that project has been, but it’s definitely a quiet feeling of delight to have it consolidated into a three volume series.

Along the way, as the trilogy made its inexorable progression, I joined a local writers group, where we writers were stimulated each week with a new task. The genres began to burble out of some soup of creativity. Poetry flowed; musings and memoir-type thoughts erupted; short stories came and went. And I began to read a kind of historical fiction, and to wonder if I could manage the research that such an effort might require. That project is now ongoing, and after an appropriate spell of hiatus, of lying fallow, it’s emerging again into consciousness.

Meanwhile, creativity continues to flow; I’m part of two writers groups now, and looking to join yet another. I’ve been writing monthly in response to the visual stimulus at VisualVerse.org. Dragons, re-mythologising, uncharacteristic actions, unreliable narrators, showing-not-telling . . . so many different kinds of writing are flowing through my fingers.

Recalling the folk club sessions we enjoyed during the ’90s, I’ve had such fun lately trying to add to the genre of Geordie dialect recitations, which has been entirely presumptuous but a personal delight. And this little blog, a continuing presentation of the joys that energise, a kind of daily musing on this or that road to happiness, has reached a little milestone today of 90 entries. That’s taken four months, so not as nose-to-the-grindstone as the daily diary, more of an outpouring of joy as it occurs. This is writing for the joy of itself.

So today, with the variety of writing genres that are available to experience, I’m delighting in that capacity. As my friend from university days urges me, Write On!

One response to “Oh, joy of genres”

  1. Still love & read Allendale Diary. Feel like I’m seeing the Village.


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