writing (re: ranting) about writing

I get that this is a blog about poetry, but I’m going to take today’s post to talk a little bit about non-fiction, and just writing in general.

This semester, I’m taking two workshops: this one and, you guessed it, creative non-fiction. I’m taking this workshop again because I love poetry; it’s tremendously important to me and has been a coping mechanism and creative outlet of mine since I was probably eight years old. I’m taking creative non-fiction because I want to grow or something.

In all seriousness, I am really excited about creative non-fiction; not because it will be easy, but because I will be challenged by it, and hopefully it can inform my poetry in some way. Fundamentally, though, my brain doesn’t work in a narrative way, and thus I’ve found myself struggling with writing non-fiction right off the bat (Because of this, I’m really interested by the lyrical essay, as I think it has the potential to both satisfy my needs as a poet and satisfy the non-fiction requirements of the class).

My other issue with non-fiction this semester is that the theme of the class is family. I’ve written about this on the blog before, and I probably will some more throughout the semester, but I have such a difficult time writing about family, whether that be in poetry, non-fiction, or elsewhere. It’s not that I have nothing to write about; it’s just that I’m terrified of publishing the work. Oftentimes, the things I write about my family aren’t exactly the things I want them to read. I also just don’t know how much ownership I have over shared stories, and I’m reminded of that daily in my non-fiction workshop. I’m always interested in other people’s thoughts on this, I’d love to hear what some of ya’ll think.

2 Replies to “writing (re: ranting) about writing”

  1. Hi Natalie! Writing about my family has always frightened me, too. I’ve written a lot about my close friends and other people in my life, but I’ve avoided writing about my living family members for the most part. I think Creative Nonfiction demands that the author share their perception of past events, rather than demanding an exact retelling of those events. I think there has to be some level of acceptance in CNF that the author can’t retell something exactly as it happened, but they can render scenes of their life exactly as they happened to them specifically. And it’s confusing because what a past event might mean to you can change over time, but I think as long as you remain vigilant in the task of honestly telling your story, that’s all you can do. It requires a certain amount of bravery, but I don’t think we should feel guilty for sharing our stories honestly.

    Hopefully that makes some sort of sense. In short, you’re not alone in your fears, but I encourage you to at least explore some of those stories in drafts and see how they feel.

  2. What has helped me in creative nonfiction is subverting the idea of a narrative both as a political action and as a literary choice. I’m sure you remember from INTD 105 that the traditional narrative is mostly created by old white men who conformed to certain expectations on how to tell a story, that often excluded marginalized stories from historically oppressed groups. Perhaps the idea of a narrative itself doesn’t sit right with you as a political idea. In terms of a literary choice, I also typically write creative non-fiction essays by breaking up sections, so they don’t flow chronologically. By doing this, I can have each paragraph, and then each sentence, have a conversation with one another, something which I think most poets appreciate in a poem and what I often suggested to people in my previous Creative Non-fiction class when the chronological narrative seemed limiting and dull.

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