Concurrent with the start of a new political administration, I recently started school again. In Creative Writing II, the curriculum is portioned into three segments—non-fiction, fiction, and poetry. We started with non-fiction, which is good as I have a work in progress. The downside—essays.
I wasn’t always a fan of essays, probably because I never felt savvy enough to write a good one. My work as a life coach encourages people to speak up and voice their feelings and viewpoints, but it doesn’t appeal to me to share my personal opinion in this form. Essays make me doubt myself. What if I was wrong, inaccurate with my research and made a ludicrous false claim? What if my interpretation of a topic was so far off as not to make sense?
When first reading literary essays, I thought as long as a group of obscure words were strung together, like black pearls on a jute cord, it was immediately considered “raw and edgy” or brilliantly clever, even when it made no sense to me.
Then I go on to consider genre fiction, works I enjoy reading as well as writing. I immediately think of the word prose, a word that I feel almost contradicts itself. Prose refers to the “ordinary form of spoken or written language…” It also means “matter-of-fact or dull expression.” So, if I write genre fiction, is my work immediately assumed to be ordinary or dull?
Writing the truth, whether in a memoir or a fictional character’s viewpoint, creates a strong connection to the reader. Maybe because academic essays are too well organized and detached—the point is to remain factual with an air of objectiveness—to me, that makes the essay feel without emotional fiber. It’s just overblown or watered down rhetoric. (Prose?)
Well-written genre is infused with creative intensity. Hitler and a multitude of other misinformed leaders appealed to ignorant minds, not taking much to convince followers to believe in an illusion. However, making an intelligent and informed mind believe in something that isn’t real is more of a challenge. To me, that is what makes fiction exciting to write.
Literary works often end like an international film that leaves one scratching their head. I get it. They want you to think, to provoke a response by presenting an unclear resolution where you choose what you believe to be true. But some of us just want to be entertained. Sometimes we doubt ourselves, and we want a break from accountability. We don’t want to read vague endings and guess what they mean whilst escaping.
I read once that fiction was the worst thing that ever happened to written expression, like bottled water being bad for third world countries and the environment. I wonder if literature outside of non-fiction is always intended escapism—a way to avoid day to day realities or people just wasting time. Perhaps, I’m doing a disservice by wanting to entertain my readers rather than provoke them into thought or teach a new skill through my personal experiences in non-fiction or my fictionalized characters. So, does that make only non-fiction works worth writing and reading? And then there’s the entertainment aspect of videos and social media. Are they also outcasts of what should be acceptable material to digest?
Thus far, my quandary as a writer has been which book to get out next. Perhaps it should be which genre. Writing is self-expression, but can I help it if someone finds my expression entertaining?
I journaled these thoughts at 4 a.m. unable to sleep because I can’t stop thinking about writing. Sometimes I have colorful dreams, terrific fictional stories based on who I want to be, would dare not be, or maybe was in the past. They have to be written. Little snippets, truisms occasionally come through, as well as these unintentional half-formatted essays.
I suppose, what it all boils down to is doing what I love. Non-fiction memoirs and essays are crafts I still need to learn, but I’m still going to keep writing fiction.