December 15, 2014

The Genres We Hate

This initially went up as part of the Mending Heartstrings blog tour, but that post had some formatting issues, so I'm sharing it here as well. As an added perk, there's still time to enter the blog tour's giveaway, included at the end!

People can be surprisingly insular when it comes to the music they listen to. While many of us would be entirely willing to try a new food (reasonably speaking — not bugs on a skewer!), we would be equally unwilling to approach music outside of our habitual genres with an open mind. Interestingly, or sadly, the same can be said about literary genres. Whether due to a lack of exposure when forming our tastes, a pervasive stereotype, or a single bad experience, we form resolute opinions on genres we must emphatically avoid.

To that end, many rule out entire musical or literary traditions, such as the wealth of classical music or all poetry, becoming adamant in escaping exposure. I can just imagine certain friends (and likely some readers) shuddering at the idea of voluntarily attending an opera, or ballet, or even something with a more “contemporary” reputation, like a Broadway musical. Similarly, all too many of my friends, despite knowing me and what I write, consider romance to be “porn on paper,” “insubstantial,” or something equally dismissive and judgmental.

Those who may be persuaded to branch out would approach the experience with an expectation of boredom and time lost at best, indeterminate suffering at worst. But occasionally, those same people who would avow a deep and longstanding hatred of a genre will be unable to escape exposure and will thereby discover how utterly wrong their preconceptions were, seeing the beauty in a new world.

I was incredibly lucky, in that I was exposed to a multitude of both musical and literary traditions when I was still young enough not to listen to close-minded stereotypes. Still, I was by no means immune to this tendency; up until quite recently, I would have stated with no lack of conviction that I hated country music. (I read so widely that I couldn’t muster the same broad antipathy for any given genre.)

To be fair, what I really meant was: “I don’t like country music, with a couple exceptions” (like Nothing On But the Radio by Gary Allan). Just over two years ago, though, I discovered a country artist whose music (for the most part) I love.

At the beginning of Mending Heartstrings, Sabella similarly discovers the beauty of one country artist’s music, which propels her to explore a genre she had previously dismissed. This brings her to Nashville. Through her eyes and the story that grew from that moment, I explored this culture as well, cutting through my own biases. Writing this book forced me to expand my self-imposed boundaries, beyond the stray song or individual artist, which allowed me to discover some beautifully written, emotive, incredible music I would have otherwise missed.

As I mentioned, I was lucky. Thankfully, this is the kind of luck we can each create for ourselves, by asking why it is we think we hate a certain genre (of literature or music!). Exposing ourselves to a broader selection allows us to form an educated opinion, rather than succumbing to our prejudices. Remaining open-minded is difficult, don’t get me wrong. But breaking through walls we’ve built for ourselves can expand our world and transform our lives.

In Sabella’s case, it allowed her to meet Kane. In mine, it helped me become an author. In yours? Well, I hope you’ll tell me.


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