If you’re a writer or artist, your work may not fall neatly in to a well-defined box.

That’s OK. Don’t let the prevalence of labels in the world threaten to stifle your work.

True, sometimes we need words (even labels?) to adequately describe something. “A romance.” An “urban fantasy.” A “cat story.” “Abstract art.”

Write first. Worry about the labels later. Write what you want to write, what you need to write, what you are wired to write, first.

This is why the Pulitzer-prize-winner author and teacher Robert Olen Butler wisely advised (in a workshop, years ago) to keep the creation of writing and the marketing of writing separate in our minds.

Marketing will necessarily attempt to classify your work. But what if your work doesn’t fit into a box? I have read that Diana Gabaldon had a terribly tough time selling her first book Outlander. It didn’t fit into any boxes. It’s a romance. It’s paranormal. It has time travel. It’s historical. It’s a huge book. And it eventually became a huge bestseller. Good thing she didn’t give up. I loved the book and couldn’t put it down.

I’m running into some of this myself. My Heart is a Mountain is a short story collection. But it contains one memoir piece. Some of the stories use magical realism. Some of the stories could barely be called speculative. Some are realistic.

To complicate things even more, I love to write fantasy about cats. So to avoid confusing people, I published (as Ann Catanzaro) my first cat fantasy story gift book Kali’s Will. It’s a fantasy. It’s a modern-day fantasy. It’s a romance. Does it fit in a box? Sort of, but not exactly. I’m not going to worry about it.

Write first.

We’re complicated creatures. Celebrate the complexity and the beauty of this.


Catherine Holm is the author of the part-realistic, part magically-realistic short story collection My Heart is a Mountain: Tales of Magic and the Land. As Ann Catanzaro, she is the author of the cat-themed gift book Kali’s Will: A Cat Fantasy Short Story.