Poetry or Fiction? by Starlie Tugade

Growing up, I’ve always thought of myself as a fiction writer, a storyteller. But one semester in Creative Writing shifted my perspective. We study three primary units in CW: Poetry, Fiction, and Playwriting. As a freshman, I’ve only experienced one poetry unit and half of a fiction unit. We started the year off with poetry, and because we spent months writing, reading, and analyzing poems, fiction became a distant thought for me. I started calling myself a poet before I called myself a short story writer. Poetry came easily to my tongue, and even easier to my pen. I would find inspiration everywhere. I could write a poem about anything: the rusty paperclip lying on a deck, the repetitive circles of a fish in a transparent sphere, the thoughts of two lovers as they boarded separate trains. 

The start of a new semester, however, also meant the start of a new unit: Fiction. Heading into Creative Writing in August, I was excited for fiction, wishing it was the first unit and thinking I was better at writing stories than poems. But months of writing poetry each day led me to a different conclusion. Poetry was easier for me. It came more naturally. In the past, whenever I would write a story, I would plan it out before writing. Every minute detail, from the shade of the main character’s eyes, to the type of shoes the antagonist would wear. When I finally planned it all out, I would start writing. Majority of the time I jumped into the writing portion with excitement, excitement that slowly fizzled out, leaving me tired of the story. I’d learned that poems were detailed, but every reader interprets them a different way, which left less pressure on the writer, whereas short stories were simpler, straight to the point. I loved both, but the switch from writing poems daily to writing one short story a week was jarring. The way I saw the world changed. I looked less at the small details, more at the overall picture. I focused less on the way the light shone through leaves on a tree and more on other peoples’ conversations. But I haven’t forgotten the joy that writing poetry brings me. I’m simply working on honing a different perspective, the short story writer in me, that had hidden for a few months. 

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