Ramblings On My Writing Class Pt. 1

I didn’t know I’d have to write nonfiction in my online creative writing class–But alas, I had to prepare for the misery of the fourth week when it was due.

Okay, let’s skip the dramatics. It wasn’t that bad. Buuuut, I still wasn’t looking forward to it. I love fiction and wanted to learn all about and only about writing fiction in this class.

The fourth week rolls around. I had just finished a short 500-word fiction story that I actually enjoyed and was able to send to my family without self-doubt creeping into my mind.

I knew this nonfiction week was coming and had two different ideas in my mind. But still–how do I write about my life creatively? From my perspective, my life seemed boring…normal…not quite like that superhero story beginning. Yeah, I had different experiences, but they were just that–experiences. Nothing I could write a ton about.

The two ideas that finally came to mind were both sad. For some reason I could only bring up sad memories that seemed to be good enough to write about for a class project. Maybe that’s because they cut deep. Invisible scars upon my heart.

With great emotion comes great writing! But I despised writing about real life–about my own life. Why was this so hard?

Later, I learned that I was scared of being vulnerable. Scared of showing my true feelings in that circumstance. Scared to relive those memories.

In fiction, I can hide feelings behind multiple fictional characters. I can explore different choices. I can write unique personalities I wish I was like. I can exaggerate–twist and turn different fictional scenarios.

Clarifying Note: I’m not saying that I’ve gone through or wanted to go through every single problem and choice my fictional characters go through. This could be a blog post topic for later!

Nonfiction is just…there. It’s real. You can’t change it. There is a set boundary that is not there in fiction and you have to write from your memories–physical and emotional.

Both ideas for my writing were about death. One about a pet cat who was going to be a mother soon…who I thought was in labor but was having a heart attack. The other idea was about life with my grandma before cancer as well as during the horrific disease.

I ended up writing about my cat because my second idea had years of memories twisted together. The word limit was too short for what I would need to write about my grandma. Writing came slowly, but with the due date arriving in a few days, I had the motivation to finish.

Whether I liked my story or not, I finished and submitted it. Besides editing it for the next week, I was done. What a relief.

Nonfiction, especially if you’re writing about your own history, opens past wounds as well as past joys. You can’t tiptoe around the truth.

Joy Chappell

I learned that writing creative nonfiction is similar to writing fiction mechanics and storytelling-wise, but different in the way you write about your ideas.

Fiction is a mass world of endless possibilities. A world you get to create. Characters who are born from the pen.

Nonfiction is a world that’s already living. A world that’s been created already with rules of its own. People who have real histories who have been breathing for a while now.

Nonfiction, especially if you’re writing about your own history, opens past wounds as well as past joys. You can’t tiptoe around the truth.

It can make you hurt.

It can make you laugh.

It can make you sick.

Real, raw emotions. How do you write that so precisely that someone else can feel it just as much as how you felt at that time? I’m still learning.

But I realized that I need to add what I learned in this nonfiction section into my fiction writing. I understand that I’m scared to be vulnerable in fiction writing, so I just don’t write them–or at least I don’t write them as truthfully because, hey, it’s fiction so I can write whatever!

Writing true emotions about situations that I’ve been in myself or at least taking what I felt in a situation and applying it to a fictional situation for my characters can make my writing sound so much deeper and relatable to readers. It’s hard and it may take longer to write, but it’s worth it.

In the end, I’m so happy about the nonfiction piece I had to write even if it wasn’t my best piece of writing. I’m so happy with what I learned in those two weeks. I can’t wait to put what I learned into my fiction writing–even if I’m still scared.

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