The reason writing nonfiction scares me is that it’s deep, intimate, and personal. At least certain types of nonfiction. The kind that you read from Cheryl Strayed or Roxane Gay. Their personal stories transcend them as individuals and reach into the wider culture.
This is the kind of nonfiction I want to write, but have yet to venture too far into. Here’s why: I’m afraid when I start writing about the personal experiences that have shaped my life, I’ll open up emotions that have been tightly sequestered away for some time. These are psychological wounds buried in my subconscious. We all have them; whether we’re aware or not, they’re there. I’m all to aware of what mine are.
My mind has been turning for a while now, pondering when the right time will be to start going down that road. I know, right now, it’s still not the right time, but I’ve let myself start to think about it–much to the chagrin of the voice inside my head telling me to slow down and stop.
But there are still words inside my head that need to get out, so I turn to fiction. It’s always been my escape from the world–as it is to anybody. Us fiction writers love it because we can momentarily embody the mind of a character dealing with a tough situation, in the hopes that maybe we’ll find clarity in our own lives. How would this person react, and what would they say? What would their face look like when they come to a realization or meet that guy or that girl for the first time?
We dig around our scrambled brains looking for words to answer those questions. The beauty of it is that what we come up with can be as far-fetched as the story allows–maybe aliens invade our little suburban world or the grilled cheese cooking in the skillet catches fire and the house burns down. The possibilities are infinite; our only limitation is the one we place on ourselves.
There will never be enough storytellers in the world, so I’ll keep writing to try to fill the void.
And this is why writing fiction is freeing. For once we control everything about this world and its characters. We’re the puppeteers orchestrating a fantastic production from start to finish, hoping to entertain and enlighten our audience. Wherein the real world we have very little control over the things that happen to us, the fictional world demands the writer take the driver’s seat of the story.
Fiction has been my one true love since I was young. I think every kid at some point or another, no matter how brief a moment, imagines writing stories. We’re storytelling beings; it’s intrinsic to who we are as humans. Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to connect with others. Think about it. When you meet someone for the first time, most people are inclined to share personal stories because it’s a way of connecting. If Billy Bob also happened to have studied at the same college that I had studied at, but during different years, and I found that out after he told me a story of this raging party his frat threw where they filled their entire main level with beach sand–well, I would be pretty shocked because I also knew a frat that did that exact thing.
What. A. Coincidence.
So, naturally, Billy Bob and I would begin sharing other stories of our experiences studying at that same school, but different years, and we’d grow fond of one another, almost solely because we had that common connection.
But I digress.
Writing stories is what I devoted three and a half years of my life to during my undergrad. It’s something I really love doing–not only to entertain but also to learn about myself. Writing is hard work, and it requires longstanding effort. I’m someone whose mind is constantly turning, which at times is my greatest weakness but can also be my greatest strength, and writing allows me to stretch that muscle a little bit extra. Much needed considering I drive myself mad by overthinking.
Simply, I’m a wordy person who needs a lot of intellectual stimulation to stay sane. (This is why reading for eight hours at my job is actually really okay and kind of perfect.)
No matter what form it appears, I’m a storytelling animal–as we all are. Fiction is where I started, but nonfiction is where I’m headed–albeit, slowly. There will never be enough storytellers in the world, so I’ll keep writing to try to fill the void.