Creative Nonschmiction

May 22, 2010

Hi Readers and Writers,

Sorry I haven’t written in awhile. I’ve been busy, and for some sad reason, haven’t felt compelled to do many exercises.  I found out a couple of months ago that I have been accepted into the Creative Nonfiction MFA program at Columbia University! It’s my dream program, and I’ve decided to attend this fall! So New York, here I come. Naturally, people have been asking me what Creative Nonfiction is, and I don’t think I fully understand it myself. I tell them that a lot of it is personal essay writing, memoir, and that it’s kind of like a more colorful, more subjective journalism, but I still don’t believe that’s all of it, and I have a lot of questions. A friend of mine told me that it’s probably a good thing to be studying a subject that still has so much mystery surrounding it; that it will make me all the more excited and curious about it. I’m trying to read as many personal essays as I possibly can to understand what people are doing. (Today it was some Joan Didion and essays from the Best American collection.)

The only real, meaningful Creative Nonfiction I think I’ve ever written was about my mom, and that was really, really challenging. Her illness and death was the most violent and painful (and “real”) event that I’ve ever witnessed. To write about something so surreally horrific has to be done very creatively. The facts and the feelings are too big for words, so I experimented with all kinds of different structures of narratives (like lists! like numbers!). As Joan Didion says, “we tell ourselves stories to live”, but she even admits that telling the story does not always make the truth more clear, or help the reality to make sense. Putting a reality that is too big for words into a story can distort, codify, blame, aggrandize, restrict, omit, betray, mythologize, you name it. It can place emphasis on one meaning, and take away from another that was once equally valid. And here is the challenge.

Write some creative  nonfiction. Write about how the events of your day interact with this picture.


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