As my publication list suggests, I prefer fiction, but lately I’ve been dabbling in creative non-fiction as well. I never really thought I’d get into this genre, and always told myself the usual rationalizations–I’m not interesting enough, no one knows who I am so why should they read my memoir, I’m better at fiction, etc., etc..
Another reason is because the first time I tried writing about my life, I dredged up memories I really wasn’t ready to deal with. My mood swings worsened, I became irritable, withdrawn, depressed, and angry, and my work suffered tremendously. People were eager to comment on how I’d let them down, but had no apparent interest in why I was acting so strange. It took a while to pull myself together, mostly because I was doing it alone.
I’m stronger now, and able to talk about my past without issue, but the thought of going back to non-fiction still unnerved me. I’m taking a graduate class in the subject, though, so I faced my fear–myself–and have really been enjoying it.
Today, I was sitting at my computer intending to write 500 words and wound up writing 2000, all vignettes, talking about my friendships, my past, and my world in general, when I remembered the golden rule of writing: write because you love to. Not because you want people to love you, or because you want them to be impressed, but because you’ve got a story to tell, and you want to tell it.
Maybe that’s not everyone’s golden rule, but it’s mine (and you’re welcome to share your thoughts below).
I sat here, typing away, at first focusing on the negatives, on bullying, on lost friends, on people who wanted to hurt me, and found myself segueing into nostalgia. I remembered sunsets and long afternoons and people I haven’t spoken to in ages. It was one of the nicest, calmest afternoons/evenings I’ve had in a while.
So, to all you who might be considering writing creative non-fiction but aren’t sure if you should, let me decide for you. You should. Tell your story the way it needs to be told, even if that story just stays in a journal or on your hard drive for the next fifty years. It might hurt, or it might heal. Either way, it’s worth the effort. Psychology tells us now that keeping a journal or reflecting on your life in any way heals old wounds and helps make you a more well-rounded person–and you’ve got nothing to lose by trying something new.
Every day is a day to dig deep and discover who you really are. Every tomorrow is a chance to do yesterday a little better. Take advantage of what little time we have here, my friends. All you have to do is pick up a pen or open a word document, and both the future and past will be yours.