I wrote a piece a couple months ago for the Off Topic Publishing Creative Non-Fiction contest. I don’t usually submit to CNF contests because I tend to try to stick with fiction. There’s something less scary about fiction, even when you’re drawing sharply from your own life, as I did with my novella-in-flash, The Clothes Make the Man. After all, with a fictional work, no one is ever quite sure if *that* part specifically is about you or if it came from your writer mind.
In creative non-fiction, even though you may mess with the timeline or take a combination of event and blend them into one to make for a flowing narrative, the essence of the story is true. When you publish a NCF, you’re telling your reader, “Hey. This is about me and I still have a lot of feelings about it.”
You’re showing the diary, the stuff you whisper in the dark, the things you don’t usually talk about except maybe with your spouse or best friend and even then, maybe only when you’re feeling a little removed from the shame, the fear, the vulnerability.
I submitted my piece to the contest and was quite happy to get an honourable mention. The publisher posted it on their page and we shared it on Twitter and that was that. Except it wasn’t.
The piece unleashed a flood of people private messaging me, tagging me on Twitter, emailing me through the contact form on my website. Many of their stories made me cry. Some of them didn’t say anything except thank you. A great deal of the messages just felt they’d seen something in the piece that resonated with them. And it was a little terrifying and a little overwhelming, and also incredible healing because though I’ve always known I wasn’t the only person to go through weight trauma and abusing my body with constant dieting, I didn’t *truly* know. After weeks, now months since publication, posts and messages still trickle in from folks who stumble across the piece and I’m still gratified by them, still bolstered by the vulnerability of the people reaching out. Still mad that so many of us were put through so much hell simply because we didn’t meet an ideal we weren’t born to meet.
If you’re considering writing creative non-fiction and have yet to do it, or you’re not sure how to start, I recommend thinking about the things that still prod at your consciousness. Events that might have shaped who you are. People who help (for good or ill) to inform who you are. And then start writing about them.
And if you want to read the piece in question, you can find it here. Don’t forget to let me know what you think. I’m always open to hearing from people.