Why I Love Creative Nonfiction

The most deeply personal of my works are the non-fiction works, the autobiographical works, because there, I’m talking about myself very directly.

~Paul Auster~

Outside my window is the soft pitter-pattering unique to rain. The musky scent of wet soil wafts in, short bursts reaching me as I sit on my bed, back resting against the cool bedroom wall. The pitter-patter is deeper, more resonating on wood and earth, and sharper for stone, and occasionally the sky rumbles in accompaniment. Or, it could be  an airplane since there’s an airport nearby. Either way, I love it. I love the rain and especially the fresh smell after it, as if the world’s been wiped clean, newly born.

Wouldn’t it be nice if that were true?

I originally planned to share a quick link with you all, to Alison Townsend’s essay “Valentine,” on Brevity (an online magazine), but as you can see I got a bit carried away. I read her essay earlier today for my creative nonfiction class, and I really enjoyed it. The use of figures of speech, historical references (to Joan of Arc, whom I love and admire), and the way she weaves in her personal life all combine to create an interesting piece of literature. Over the past two months, I’ve fallen deeper and deeper into the spell of creative nonfiction. Or, it’s more like I’ve been presented with a prolonged “ah-ha” moment, which goes on and on as I discover more and more about this genre, and how to master it, filling me with exhiliration with each learned bit. I feel like a child again, newly exposed to literature and the realization that she could put pen to paper herself, and bring something to the world completely from herself.

The three books that introduced me to the world of fiction were: Peter S. Beagle’s “The Last Unicorn,” Elizabeth Kerner’s “Song in the Silence,” and Victoria Hanley’s “The Seer and the Sword.” These three books made up my elementary world until I discovered Tamora Pierce’s books in middle school, and it is thanks to these three books that I realized just how much I wanted to be a writer. Writing, to me, is not a desire, or a whim, but a pure necessity. If I do not write, I go insane. My brain dulls, and I become stupid, passive, lazy. I go through the motions. But most of all, if I don’t write, I silence my voice.

I am a horrible speaker. I stutter when nervous, have a naturally low voice and so am constantly asked to speak up at work or in class (which only makes me stutter more), and even switch from English to Spanish in cases of extreme nervousness. In arguments, I am the one that comes up with great zingers after the fact, like hours after, when everyone’s gone home and the janitor’s trying to kick my sorry ass to the curb. (Okay, so no janitors have been involved so far, but you know what I mean.) And so, writing has become the outlet for my words. It makes up for my weak lungs, and audible silence. Writing has made me so cautious with what I say, and even with what I do, and this is why I have learned to avoid speaking needlessly. I always wonder: is this necessary to say? Should I respond? Do they even need my opinion?

This is also what lead to my little epiphany earlier in the month (titled “On Speaking When Upset“). I can’t keep silencing myself, and especially not in writing. Often times, I will sit in front of the page, or in front of the computer, and freak out. I can actually observe my mind censoring my words the longer I wait to put them down on paper, as if the inner critique in my mind, in a random bout of bitchiness, had decided to keep her finger hovering over the delete button, and pressing it each time I put pen to paper. By the time I scribble the first line, everything’s gone, and replaced by maniacal cackling.

By learning creative nonfiction, however, I have slowly begun to cease this self-censorship. CN has two aspects that I need at the moment: the leeway for extreme creativity, but also the grounding in reality. I love fiction, always have and always will, but its great fault is that it is false. Fiction is just that, make believe. And before you freak out on me, I realize that this blog is focused on believing in the whimsical. I do, and will never stop believing in it. But I also have to believe in reality, and believe that there is some aspect of it in the words I read. This is why I blog actually, and why I love CN. Both are similar in that they are all about people’s lives, and both are creative outlets. I, of course, will not stop writing poetry and prose, but look forward to writing many personal essays imbued with the literary devices I have learned in my years of writing fiction.

Well, I think it’s about time I wrap this up and let you all sleep. Have a wonderful night folks, and wonderful weekend.

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2 thoughts on “Why I Love Creative Nonfiction”

    1. I never thought of that, but now that you’ve mentioned it the beginning kinda does. Now I’ll have that song stuck in my head for the next few days. Thanks for reading!

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