During my undergrad degree I had to take a range of English courses. One class I took was titled “creative non-fiction.” The professor of this course ran us through a series of exercises, gave us examples to read, and gave us assignments for writing. I continually failed miserably at the assignments. I just couldn’t wrap my head around what she was asking for. I got my lowest grade in an English course in that class because it just didn’t click.
Years later, while pursuing my Master’s degree, I had to take another creative non-fiction class. This time things started to make a bit more sense, and I wrote at least one piece that I can say I’m proud of. So what happened between one class and the other? Was it a different teacher, a different approach, personal growth? Looking back, I think it had a lot to do with where I was at as a writer and as a person.
Growing up I was shy, I was reserved, and I didn’t really want to tell people about my life and the troubles I had endured. When I was 20, sitting in that first creative non-fiction class, I was still shy and reserved and was not ready to share my personal story with the world. I was still writing childish things, and my creative non-fiction felt extremely childish. It also felt fake because I wasn’t truly opening up. I wasn’t imbuing my thoughts and feelings into the work. I was hiding behind poorly written prose and silly attempts to make my creative non-fiction funny instead of honest.
By the time I was pursuing my second degree, I was more open and more honest. I wrote a short piece about my relationship with my father and it actually touched some people. I gave it the emotion it deserved and didn’t hide the truth behind humor.
Recently, I’ve been writing more and more non-fiction from my own life. It feels like this is the right time to finally open up. The beauty of non-fiction is that it can be relatable to readers, and it can touch them through a variety of emotions.
I think creative non-fiction is a wonderful genre that every writer should explore. Just remember though, that if you’re going to start telling your own story you have to be ready to be honest, and to be open. If you’re not ready to tell your own story with all the truth and emotion it requires, give it a few years until it feels right.