ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: V is for Vanity

Posted by on Jul 27, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

scott,christinapictureVanity is in all the unfinished works on my USB. Little phrases or sayings that show my self-consciousness, my desire to please the reader. These lines are taken out, or they sit in drafts that I am afraid to finish. But as I examine them, I see a trend—I’m either trying to please myself with how artistic and flowing I can make a sentence, or I’m literally just trying to be understood, and like a plumber underneath a sink with a wrench who can’t figure out where to tighten, I feel helpless. How do these two desires merge? My answer is: remove the vanity.

Vanity. In my life it has less to do with fanning myself underneath a veranda and sipping lemonade while getting a foot massage and thinking of my accomplishments and more to do with sounding smart. Or educated. Or like I know the answer to questions during a class I teach. Vanity and a desire to not look stupid are pretty much the same thing in my life.

There is a piece I started to write about the preponderance of police shootings of unarmed black people in this country. My artistic-self wanted to make an effective underlying metaphor. My practical, down-to-Earth self wanted a relatable metaphor. The result? Absurdity.

A toddler shot a teenager for walking in the street. Toddlers cannot be held accountable for life, since they do not understand intangible concepts, so the perpetrator was given extra milk and sent to bed early. Later that day, a toddler sucking in and out a binky cleaned up the crime scene. He had a temper tantrum half-way through, covered in blood. It was deemed that he needed a diaper change. His diaper was changed. He continued to clean up the blood, thinking about his extra portion of Goldfish Crackers when he got home.

In this toddler’s world, only other toddlers deserve justice. Adults, or those who are not cradled and swaddled in blankets and fed liquefied steak through straws must await a bad day when a toddler gets indigestion. The toddler can take a toy out of his chest of toys and aim it at the adult and whatever explosion of gore results will be forgiven. The toddler coos and the crowd laughs and the death and torture of others is overlooked or not acknowledged or maybe the adult deserved to die? Toddlers know what they are talking about. Toddlers can do no harm. Toddlers serve and protect. Toddlers know about the world because it has always been good to them. It has always kissed their booboos and forgiven them when they break mommy’s vase. They accumulate more toys and while they haven’t figured out the square toy with round holes they have a committee looking into it.

It’s an important concept, and I can’t say I’ve yet done it justice. So do I ditch it? Do I give up under the overwhelming pressure of my ineptitude? Do I let my vanity save it and put it out there anyway? I haven’t found that balance yet in my writing, but I hope one day I will.

What about you?

Christina Scott is a graduate of the MFA writing program at Sarah Lawrence College. Her work has appeared in Spry Literary Journal, The Quotable, Maudlin House, Riding Light, and Animal Literary Magazine. She teaches college English classes in Westchester County, New York.

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