Trying My Hand at Nonfiction

Recently, I have been trying to write and read some creative nonfiction. Honestly, I’ve not even been sure what creative nonfiction was for a long time or how to define it. I’ve been grappling with that of late.

Nonfiction, you say? Well, recently, I wrote a piece called, “My Life as a Buffalo Bills Fan.” In it, I wrestle with the ideas of hope and disappointment in my life, and I try to connect it all through my ridiculous loyalty to the lovable losers, the Buffalo Bills.

Nonfiction is a curious animal. I guess I don’t much believe in it. In a way, I don’t much believe in fiction either. For me, I only ever write what I know or I’ve experienced, not that my fiction is autobiographical, but I try to tap into a real, honest emotional experience. But with nonfiction, so much of it seems to be about an account of something. And I don’t really trust people’s memories that much. Is it good enough to say that the author tried his best to tell the truth? I mean, personally, the person I lie to the most is named Adam Nannini.

So … you’re not writing nonfiction? Well, I am. I’m trying. It’s a fun process. I find myself writing about such heavy themes in fiction that it’s kind of nice to just write about some things I love. I find it invigorating. And I suppose I’m trying to stick to the form of nonfiction, which to me, seems to be a collection of anecdotes or a singular event that is talking about a central thread. Fiction can do this as well. The line between them often seems blurred.

I feel like in nonfiction, I have to be more accountable to the reader, like I need to spell the change or the lesson or whatnot out more than I do in fiction. Maybe this is inaccurate. I enjoy the essay (when it’s done well {and that’s rare to me}), and it’s been a lot of fun to just share personal loves and experiences in the nonfiction form.

What are you reading? Well, recently, I started reading a book by David Sedaris, and I bought another book by Michael Chabon (I’m not 100% sure if this is nonfiction yet), but the thing I think I’ve liked the most is reading pieces on the online lit journal Brevity. It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s allowed me to begin to think about this different form.

I suppose one of the issues I have defining nonfiction is the name. I mean, it’s defined by what it is not. Someone said to me when I asked them if a certain piece was truly nonfiction (it was a story about a man imagining that there were ghosts in his house), and the person responded, “Yes. I didn’t feel deceived by the author. I didn’t feel lied to.” I don’t think fiction seeks to lie or deceive at all. I think the main goal is to find some emotional truth, to capture the feeling of a character, something real. I know I don’t try to deceive readers by my fiction. I’m not even quite sure what that means.

Wind it up, bub. OK, Logan. Point is, it’s been a very interesting little diversion for me. I have not really read much nonfiction (unless you count Orwell), and I certainly have not written it. I’m curious what my readers’ experience has been with this genre and if they feel the distinction of fiction vs. nonfiction really matters. I guess, to me, it’s about if I’m moved by it. I don’t really care if it was real unless it is claiming to be a historical document or some such. But that’s me.

About Adam Nannini

The greatest writer of his generation ... which isn't saying much.
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