ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: Y is for Yes

Posted by on Jul 30, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

KC Photo Headshot 2I haven’t always considered myself a non-fiction writer. In truth, fiction has always been my deep and passionate love. For as long as I’ve been talking, I’ve been telling stories—just ask my mother. I’ve also found that poetry has been a comforting friend—a constant lesson in brevity and a way to collect my thoughts. These have always been the forms of expression I’ve fallen into most naturally, the ones I’ve had the strongest urge to share. To this end, I’ve shied away from the idea of writing about myself—aside from infrequent and undisciplined journaling from time to time.

I believe there are a few reasons for this. One, I haven’t always felt like I had anything to write about in terms of my own life. I’m in my twenties and I haven’t exactly accomplished everything I’ve set out to do so far. What do I have to say that anyone wants to read? Also, it’s infinitely more dangerous to write about myself, to get personal out there into a world of snap judgement and internet trolls. This is a scary notion. Beyond that, I’d be exposing my innermost thoughts and feelings and this kind of vulnerability is hard to achieve with close friends and intimate partners, let alone strangers. This has never been something I’ve felt prepared to do.

And then I started doing it—publishing essays and articles about my life. And, suddenly I’ve added creative non-fiction to my resume almost as naturally as those other genres. So what has changed? I think, in the simplest terms, I decided to say yes. Yes, I have a story to tell. Yes, I have unique thoughts, feelings, and experiences and, yes, they matter. Yes, I can put myself out there because I believe in authenticity and honesty and the value of vulnerability and maybe I can show that to other people. 

Saying yes to writing about yourself and your life experiences means accepting that you are worth writing about. This is essential. You must believe in the value of your own story, and how it fits into a larger story, the story of what it means to be human. At least that has been the case for me. Saying yes to writing about my own deeply personal experiences with sex and body image, with chronic illness, with the fears and frustrations of growing up, has meant saying yes to opening wounds that come with devoting time and energy to putting my experiences to words. It’s meant saying yes to digging into the deepest, darkest parts of myself, the secret places, and opening the shades for the world to peer inside. Saying yes has meant confronting myself in the most head-on way. This has been, at times, terrifying, but also freeing.

This writing, this sharing, has made me a more open and thoughtful person. It has allowed me to break down the walls of artifice and showmanship that go hand in hand with representing oneself in our modern world. It has allowed me to be critical but also compassionate toward people, toward life, and even toward myself. And, it’s created wonderful, inspiring connections with others who find pieces of themselves in my own stories. It’s reminded me how alike we all really can be in terms of our deep fears and desires. In saying yes to sharing parts of myself, I have found a new perspective, a brighter outlook, and maybe even a better world within myself and others. And, I think I may just be getting started.

Stephanie Harper received her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Fairfield University with an emphasis in fiction. Her work can be found in The Huffington Post, HelloGiggles, The Montreal Review, Poetry Quarterly, Midwest Literary Magazine, and Haiku Journal. She lives in Denver, CO.

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