Here’s the rest of my essay from my Creative Nonfiction Writing class:
While my First Assumption is crumbling, the Second is closely following. Prior to my first class, I think creative nonfiction writing meant interviews, straight reporting, op-ed pieces, and everything else falls under “creative fiction.” The first stories I read, the first assignments I write, are all in exact opposite of who I am. I thought everything has to be tales of sorrow. Personal agony, heartaches, turmoil, all for sharing. While I admire the personal courage it takes to open one’s life to strangers, I am hesitant at first to do the same. It’s not in me to talk about myself, let alone write about it. I’m partly sunny, glass half full, and I firmly believe there’s a pony in there somewhere.
I am curious about things, life, and people. I want to know what makes it work, how did they do that, what was on their mind, why did they do that? Only the DVD’s that contain the “Making of…” features are purchased. My first thoughts about this genre give me pause. One month into the writing program and I wonder if I’ve made a mistake.
Thankfully, I am exposed to writers like Talese and Iyer, writers who write from the “indirect I” perspective. I especially like Talese’s style. The clouds part and the birds sing again. I can do this. There is no consent form I have to sign before publishing that stipulates, “Only stories of personal pain, defeat, despair, and/or desperation are accepted for first publication.” I am pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed reading about a father taking his infant daughter along on a mountain trail in the story “Cloud Dancing.”
More self-discovery occurs. I do share something of myself. I write about cloudy days. I share a story of a short-lived escape to New York City from an unhappy home. I share another story of the relationship with my stepfather. I notice I do not lose any sleep after. No one looks at me with sorrowful eyes, shaking their head in sadness. A comforting hand is not laid on my shoulder and I hear, “You poor bastard, that is just awful!” I develop a recognition and appreciation of the courage of others sharing their personal pains, and triumphs.
I have developed an appreciation for the “creation” part of the process. I like it. I can write a plain description of my first trip to Los Angeles, and the thrill of seeing the Grand Canyon and the Rockies. I know now I can do better than that – I can take the reader with me, a companion on my journey. I love flying, so the window seat is mine! They’ll have to settle for the inside seat. Not to worry, I’ll paint a picture in words of what I’m seeing.