Different genres have different criteria that readers expect. Seeing those expectations fulfilled can be eye opening. I don’t necessarily pick up a romance or cozy mystery for fun. Digging into why another author writes something I recognize from my writing, or something alien to how I write only strengthens my grasp of my craft. There is a lot for me to learn from working or reading in genres outside sci-fi and fantasy.
I’ve written before about why I’d seek out critique groups that have a mixture of genre authors. This is a more detailed look at that advice. Two unrelated genres may seem like comparing apples to oranges, but they both use language to fulfill their purpose.
A self help book for example, might have nothing to do with a swashbuckling hero fighting a dark lord. Beyond the surface of either narrative, there is still conflict and a story to be told in each. Analyzing those similarities and differences exposes the mechanics of those shared aspects and disparities.
Storytelling (or showing), is universal. There are constants between genres. A story still has a beginning middle and end, there are protagonists (of a sort), antagonists, and supporting characters. In non-fiction, those last three roles may take on the form of concepts rather than characters. But there is also some form of conflict and resolution in every purely non-technical book I’ve read.
When you work with or just read outside your genre, it’s like visiting other countries. They all live their life differently than you may be used to, but ultimately they are still humans. They are born, grow old, and die, just like people back home. The important part of exploring for me, is to compare and contrast how they live from how I grew up. Not that one is better than the other, but that I can learn more about myself by learning the differences.