Monday, January 28, 2013

working with the world as we find it

Clearly, the facts get muddled in creative nonfiction. That's how humans are. Conversations get constructed from ten-year-old memories, scents and scenes are rebuilt from imperfect neurons, tastes are retasted and touches are refelt. None of that is done with absolute accuracy.

That doesn't, in my opinion, detract from what we call creative nonfiction. Rather it adds. Creative nonfiction is about human experiences, real human experiences - the ways we recall things, the ways we revise things, the ways we relive things. And creative nonfiction fills a niche that will never be filled by either fiction or traditional nonfiction. An important niche about the things that happen to people in real time and the ways those things change us a day or decade later.

For me, that is the great allure of creative nonfiction - working with the world as we find it. Piecing together a moment when it seems the world offered a glimpse behind the curtains and we saw, for an instant, some sense in it all.
- Gerald Callahan

I like what he says about working with the world as we find it, because that's what I like so much about writing. I'm not very good at fiction because I get all turned around in trying to figure out what really happens. When the pieces are there, and my job is to recreate it into a mosaic that has some kind of new meaning, that's when I find joy.

PS This guy is kinda my new hero. He is an immunologist and a writer, and holds a dual professorship in science and English. I read his essay Chimera last night and was amazed by how he tied science and feeling together. Usually when I read the science I write for work, I want to poke my eyes out with a sharp object. His, I wanted to keep reading.

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