Monday, October 3, 2011

Creative Nonfiction is Terrifying.

I'm supposed to have two goals for the Creative Nonfiction class that I'm currently enrolled in: the first is to read and pick apart a creative nonfiction essay every week, breaking it down into themes and things I notice about the writing: how it was written, why the author chose to write what they wrote, what the topic says about the writer, what it's supposed to make the reader feel, etc. The second part is to take an element of what that author used - a style, a mood, a theme, you name it - and borrow it for my own piece. Every week, I'm to write a creative nonfiction piece and share it with the class.

I'm finding the process a tad difficult.

It's not tough for me because of how I have to write. Borrowing styles is how fledgling authors experiment and learn and find their own writing voices, the same way that children borrow verbal tics from their heroes and mentors. The part that's difficult is figuring out what to write. 

I'm a bit biased when it comes to my own writing style. I tend to try to look at things from a more lighthearted point of view. I like to make things funny, even when they're not. I like to make people laugh, even if it means that sometimes a joke comes a little short of where I intended it to go. Sometimes, my writing isn't allowed to be funny. I've never really been a good dramatic writer, and I'm sure that part of it has to do with my personality. 

But I also know that part of it lies within my own anxiety of putting too much of myself on the table: too many details about myself, facing and owning up to my insecurities and shortcomings, things like that. It's like the moment a hero realizes that the darkness he's fighting is really just his own reflection; to get rid of the evil, he must get rid of his reflection. Get rid of himself. Sometimes, it's facing that fact that makes writing creative nonfiction difficult, especially when it's about yourself. It makes you dig up things about yourself you're ashamed to admit, wish you could forget. Everyone has skeletons in their closet; writing creative nonfiction makes you dust yours off and display them. Sometimes it's to prove a point, but it can be just as moving and heartfelt when you don't.

So far, I've been able to tell a lot of the humorous stories from my lifetime. The running gag between my friends and I is that my life cannot be real, and is in fact just a scripted TV show that everyone is in on but me - like 1998's The Truman Show. 

I know that I can't keep running away from the more dramatic moments of my life. I know that I'll eventually have to face them head on and write about them, catalog them like I've cataloged the hilarious, surreal, and extraordinary moments in my life. I'm not sure if I'm ready to face the more dramatic, sad, and "real" moments that my life has had to offer, but I'm sure that I'll find a way to make them just as fluid and readable as the ones that have focused on the fun times in my life.

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