ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: G is for Gravity

Posted by on Jul 12, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

V9kDEDXoSylvia Plath once wrote in her novel The Bell Jar, “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” No matter the genre, all writers need to deal with emotions. It’s part of the job. When we find these emotions, we must ask ourselves, “Why?” Even as writers, there are some emotions we can’t explain, at least not confidently. We must dig deeper to find the meaning and gravity that pulls a memory together.

Growing up in my house, I experienced the sorta-kinda-an-only-child-but-not-really-since-I-have-half-sisters syndrome. My older sisters are ten and seven years older than myself, and visited every other weekend. In my eyes, I was an only child most of the time. It was just me and my single mother, the two man wolf pack. As soon as their father pulled into my driveway to pick up his daughters, throwing their duffle bags into the trunk and waiting patiently for them to say goodbye, I had tantrums. I kicked, screamed, and cried my eyes out every single time. Looking into my mind as a six-year-old girl, I simply didn’t want them to go. My mother held me back at the front door and we watched them drive away down our winding street. To cheer me up, my mother handed me a cherry Popsicle, and it was as if nothing happened. I remember these moments clearly, as if it occurred yesterday.

With this particular memory, I have to ask myself, “Why did you really have those tantrums?” Was there something more to my emotions at that time that I didn’t know then but I perhaps, know now? Was I secretly lonely? Was I jealous of my sisters for having a father they were able to see and talk to everyday, and I didn’t? Did I fear they weren’t going to come back ever again?

Looking back as a twenty-four-year-old woman, it’s a bit silly to think that I had a fear of never seeing my sisters again. But at the time, as a small six-year-old with no idea about the outside world and how things work, it’s not that silly.

The best approach at finding this gravitational pull is writing your heart out. Write as much as you can, as fast as you can, until your brain is dry. Then stop writing and think. Take a few days. Go for a run, sip on some chamomile tea, watch your favorite movie, and clean, even if you hate cleaning. Go about your days as you normally would. Once a few days have passed, go back to your writing and read everything you have created. Read each sentence carefully, and stop to ask yourself some questions. Why did I react this way? What made me happy, sad, calm, or at peace? For me, it was soothing to slowly eat my cherry Popsicle that dripped red splotches all over my hands and shoes.

By performing this exercise myself, I’ve found some incredible fears and dreams I once had, and still have, that are vital to pulling my readers into my life. It’s important for readers to fully understand the narrator, which is you, and why the memories you hold are so crucial and precious.

There are memories and feelings every person suppresses, and this method of finding it will not happen overnight. It takes time, strength, stress, and many sleepless nights. Please don’t fret grasshopper if you haven’t reached that point. Emotions are a thick wall we must bulldoze and crack open in order to configure the pieces. When writing scenes whether in memoir or personal essay, every writer should be searching for more than just what they remember. Our memories are one dimensional, and it’s our job to make them three dimensional.

Jessie Reyna attended the University of New Hampshire where she received her B.A. in Art History in 2013, and graduated from Fairfield University’s M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program in 2015. She has been both Nonfiction Editor and Editor-in-Chief for Mason’s Road: A Literary Arts Journal, and has previously been featured in Spry Lit’s art section. She loves sketching with her watercolors, traveling, browsing through used book stores, and occasionally blogging. She currently lives in Connecticut where she’s working on her first memoir and a collection of essays. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram!



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