This year, I’m taking my first non-fiction class ever. I’m currently on my senior year of college toward my English degree, and so when I had to pick between non-fiction and poetry to fill my creative writing requirement, I chose non-fiction. I was dreading that class simply because I thought I knew everything there was to know about non-fiction, and I didn’t want anything to do with it. Still, I figured it would be much easier to tackle than poetry. Regardless of my motivation, I’m so glad I discovered the beauty of non-fiction.
Most of my writing life has been dedicated to writing fiction stories. I started with fiction novels and slowly drifted to short stories. Both of these gave me so much satisfaction. I learned to craft my own stories, create my own characters, maintain consistencies, and manage plots. There are by far many fiction writing tools, and it’s been a long and winding road to try to learn them all. I thought the switch to non-fiction creative writing would be a disaster, but it has been an incredible learning experience so far.
The first assumption I had wrong when it came to non-fiction writing is that everything is strong hard facts, centered in the truth and nothing but the truth. I pictured journalism whenever I thought of non-fiction, and that’s just not my cup of tea. However, I’ve come to learn that there’s a thin line (highly debated) between what is essentially true in non-fiction, and what isn’t. I learned that many essayist do happen to alter details or slightly bend the truth when it’s most convenient on their essays/memoirs. And that was liberating.
This is not to say I’ve used this approach a lot. I tend to stick to the truth, as I remember it, of course. In the course of the semester, I’ve written two fiction stories, and about ten non-fiction essays. I’ve measured my improvement in the latter because of all the work I’ve done, and I’ve created pieces that I’m proud of. Although, I wouldn’t be willing to share many of my essays as easily as I share my short stories. That’s something I still have to work on. But through my journey in non-fiction, I’ve learned that I have more to offer when it comes to writing. I have written about so many things, people, experiences that I never would have written about had I not taken this class. Some of these essays have been difficult to write, but they ended up being some of my favorites.
I still adore fiction writing. It’s my first love. I will always want to write fiction because I have too many fictional characters living in my head that need to be written down. But I’m going to focus on essays as well, and maybe someday, a long memoir. The thing about non-fiction is that there aren’t that many rules. Sure, there are different forms and presentations and tools, same as with fiction, but it’s so interesting playing with my own reality, however twisted it has become over the years. Memories change, and I write them as I remember them. And every time I write them down, I can let go of them a little bit. Sometimes, that’s necessary.