How do you choose?
Many people can argue that a writer is better fit to write either prose or poetry? Are they right? Others will argue that if you master writing poetry, than you can master writing prose, and you have the ability to write both. Are they right? If you are a beginner, how do you know where to start: poetry or prose? If you are a more experienced writer: how do you know if you really are meant to be a prose or poetry writer? In my own opinion, people can write both, but slant to writing one better.
Think of it this way, writing prose is like writing or being more suited to writing script. Prose is really any form of writing by putting words into a specific order for others to read like nonfiction and fiction genre writing. Poetry is really using figurative language to convey a message through verse, meter, rhythm and/or rhyme.
So ask yourself:
Are you more attracted to films/movies than stills/moments?
Do enjoy storytelling? Telling people stories from your life? Or stories you created?
Do you prefer to read stories over poems?
If you said yes to these questions, then you are more suited to writing prose over poetry. If you said no, you might slant more towards writing poetry. Prose writing are like films, we have before the action, the action, and then what happens after the action. In most poetry, we just have a slice of the moment, snapshot taken of the moment the poet has chosen to written.
Finding the right one…
Here is an exercise you can do: write down a creative thought, it could be a topic, a writing prompt, a moment of inspiration, something you want to write about whether it be poetry or prose. Now take that thought and list 20 words that communicate or describe the writing idea. Once you have those words, create and write! Use them in a poem less than 20 lines and in a short story less than 500 words.
Re-read each, which one was easier to write? Which one was harder to write? Which one is written better? Which form, poetry or prose, have you best communicated the creative thought?
Whichever is best is what you are more suited to or have more experience in writing. I have written fiction since I was nine. Stories about aliens coming from out of the sky to god-like beings raging war on earth with magic (I like fantasy) to also going to college to become a grim reaper in society as a job (please don’t steal my ideas). In college, (just a few years ago) I learned I was way better at poetry, even though I hated it since I was a child. Though some self-discovery with my writing self, I learned I am naturally more suited for writing poetry than what I was for fiction. My only struggle on writing prose is the structure and I write like I talk. From some reason on writing critics that is what confused people. When I write poetry, I found though there are rules, it is more my engaging to my brain and I have more independence for my creative mind to express what it wants more freely and spontaneously. Reading critics on my poetry come back more positive, I have even had poetry published in literary journals.
So how can you really tell if you are meant for poetry or prose?
Poetry is art, so are you more direct and straightforward with your writing? Do you like figurative language and the aesthetic properties of words and how to use them? Is your writing more moved by the beauty of language?
Prose is communication: is the form of writing longer than poetry? Does it consist of characters, narration, a plot, and is the reader moved by the message rather than the language?
It really boils down to your artistic sense, do you craft language to be read as art or do you craft a story to be unfold in a series of crafted letters and words? Who do you want as your audience, and how do you want to communicate to them? With musical language where meaning is conveyed through sounds or is the message more important than the language, which is prose.
Another exercise you can do, is to take the same exercise you did earlier and give it to a friend, family member, co-worker, even a stranger and have them read both the poem and story. What are their critics or takes on your writing? What does this tell you as a writer?
The beauty about writing is that it is not picky, you can marry it or divorce it, put it on the side and forget about it, or plant it and watch your words grow every day. So have fun with self-discovery on what kind of writer you were meant to be!
1 thought on “Are You a Prose or Poetry Writer?”
For me it has come down to which form I have enjoyed/immersed myself in. I have been reading fiction (prose) since my childhood, but though I studied poetry in school, I never felt drawn to it. I suspect there is a deeper influence than just this though. I have been practicing fiction writing for decades, and while I think I have grown better at it, I feel there is still much I have to learn. Yet when I read or listen to poetry — the most recent being Amanda Gorman’s knock-it-out-of-the-park inauguration poem — I realize that it is another country. And one where I don’t speak the language.
I do believe that if I read more poetry and studied it to see how it worked, I might be able to take some baby steps to crafting some of my own. And I suspect that working on having the kind of precision poetry seems to require would make me a better prose writer, but I also think that such an endeavor would sap creative energy from my prose writing (not to mention hours of time) and I need to stay focused on what I know I can do (and need to keep getting better at doing).
I have no animus to poetry or poets, but I think I am not inclined that way and must better use my limited creative resources where I can.
Also, thank you for this provocative post.
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