Monday, November 18, 2013

The Essential Truth: Blurring the Lines of Creative Non-Fiction

Blurred Lines

I send my brother a piece of my writing.  It’s about us- something that happened a while ago, a moment from a time I assumed he wouldn’t remember, but that I had held onto tightly.  He ponders it over for a few days, then he calls me to discuss…

“I read the story you sent, and it was extremely well written (why thank you, dear brother), but I had to read it three times, because I specifically remember that experience, and my set of memories seems to color things differently, so I think I'm overlaying things I remember with things you didn’t necessarily remember or feel, but the way it was written definitely evokes a feeling of anxiety.”

Did I blur the boundaries too much?  Or was that my goal?  Is my writing meant to only be “gotten” or “understood” by me?  Am I that selfish?  Probably.  But I also think that the way we as writers “color” things, as my brother so eloquently put it, can be an elegant method to fill our stories.  Writing is an art - we’re making things beautiful.  It works the same way it did in kindergarten when your neighbor might have colored the dog blue and you colored it beige or brown.  Your five-year-old self might have scoffed, but the dog can be blue if it appears as such to them.

The essential truth, however, the “anxiety” that my brother felt when reading, was the main point I was trying to capture in the piece, and how it comes across is always going to be based on the reader’s perspective.  It is the responsibility of a writer to illustrate emotion on a page, while the reader is entrusted with interpretation. 

A good friend once told me, “Everything is perception.”  It is our passion to paint pictures for people, but we can still craft a portrait that someone might color differently because of their experiences, opinions, and feelings.  If everything is undeniably about our insight, then we must have faith in our readers to make the leaps between our lyric essays, discern our extended metaphors, and understand all of our undertones, no matter what shade they choose to look through.  And as for staying inside the lines, it may be the right thing to do, but so much beauty comes from our flaws, our inability to stay inside our specific genres, and our need to blur boundaries so we can lose ourselves in pages and pages of colorful splendor.

Brittany Ackerman is a second semester graduate student studying for her MFA in creative non-fiction.  It is her first semester teaching English Composition, and so far she loves it.  Aside from reading, writing, and now grading papers, she does ballet and enjoys baking treats.  She has a mean recipe for a cookie dough filled cupcake!  Yum.  She is also a Disney enthusiast and travels often to the magical theme parks worldwide.  

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