The Odd Couple

I think it's necessary to have a sort of introduction to my blog. I've said the "how do you do's" and introduced myself (and still have yet to lay out my soul for the world to see) but there's more to it than me. I am looking forward to a long, mutual conversation, because hearing myself talk is not one of my favorite activities (but hopefully other people find it enjoyable.) I'd like to hear what you have to say about the two quirky topics of my blog because, well, let's be honest. The subjects are oddly paired. Creative nonfiction and worship? Some of you may be saying to yourself, "what is this creative non-fiction anyway?" And some of you may very well be saying, "This blog sounds deathly boring and I'd rather be sitting in a broken down elevator with a yapping dog and a headache."

So let's move onto a good question. What is Creative Nonfiction? Despite the genre's seeming elusiveness, it's very accesible and, you've probably already been exposed to it. I'm still learning about it, but I think I've developed some definitions I'm happy with. Cheaply put, it's an excuse for us indecisive writers who are stuck in the median of the road with fiction and non-fiction passing by at record speed in opposite directions. But of course, if I really felt this way I wouldn't choose it for myself (although indecisiveness is a rather boulder sized problem for me. . .) Liberally put, it's a natural literary form to arise out of the postmodern era, proving that stories do not have one final say, or one sure reality. In more literary terms, it's an opportunity to craft true stories into literary art. Notice that I use the words "true stories" rather than truth, for as we all know, truth exists more heavily in literature than in real life. Some people call creative nonfiction, "literary factual prose," "literary journalism", and "narrative nonfiction". It can include memoirs, personal essays, meditations, and plotted narrative (Taken from WRITING CREATIVE NONFICTION, ed. Carolyn Forche and Philip Gerard, 2001). Annie Dillard, Madeleine L'Engle and Anne Lamont are all considered writers of creative nonfiction.

So aside from all that, what's it for? In my opinion, one of the most appealing aspects of the genre is its freedom. If you haven't seen the movie, "Everything is Illuminated" with Elijah Wood, I HIGHLY recommend it. And besides being perfectly descriptive of the movie, the title helps me explain what creative nonfiction does. Somehow, putting real life into the language of literature, using plot elements like setting, dialogue, conflict, suspense, character development, etc., enlightens experiences. Somehow all of the nuances and crannies and nooks that once were invisible to the naked eye are visible to the literary eye. In a very similar way, creative nonfiction takes us back to the ancient's history preserving method: orally passing down histories from generation to generation. How did people remember an old story told by a campfire or a candle? Because it wasn't just a history textbook they heard. They weren't stone cold facts ignorant of anything but themselves. They were beautiful words that told the truth about the human condition.

There's a certain amount of creative license issued to former journalists and reporters who have been stuck in a rut most of their life, unable to express their art. When someone grabs hold of creative nonfiction for the first time, the story ideas are endless. You can draw from your own life, or someone you know, or a historical figure, or your apartment neighbor. But one thing I have to make clear: show the big picture, not your own narrow perspective.

I went to a writer's conference a few months ago where I heard editors lament over the number of memoir proposals they receive. Memoirs, or life stories, are the big "to do" these days. I'm sure there are quite a few people out there who believe their stories are interesting to the world. . . they may even think they have something just because they tell the truth in one big piece, rather than a million. In any case, as interesting as my day at work was I have one rule: I don't write for the world unless the world has something to gain from it. In other words, make it universal. Don't make it specific to your life so that no one gets it, or people drool from boredom.

As you can see, I didn't get the topic of worship and what it has to do with creative nonfiction. Maybe you can do your own detective correlation work until I write a new post. . .


French Women Don't Get Fat: on the pleasure of writing and worship

The book is called FRENCH WOMEN DON'T GET FAT: THE SECRET OF EATING FOR PLEASURE, by Mireille Guiliano. No, I'm not starting my first blogging post with a book review. Actually, it's more of a life review. Reading about the necessity of leek soup and whole milk and chocolate changed my writing and my living for good, and I think it's necessary to inflict the philosophy on you as well. Why, you may ask? A famous writer, loner, thinker, and forest dweller explains my enthusiasm best. Henry David Thoreau said in WALDEN, "I went into the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life...to put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

After I read Mireille Guiliano's philosophies for eating, I was struck with the vital purpose of pleasure--the desires we all have to live deep and suck life for all it's worth. I have to admit--the concept initially conflicted with my faith, knowing that the idea of pleasure has long been considered hedonism by Christians. Our fear of pleasure goes back to the virtue of Christian suffering. I cannot deny the cross and the promises of character through trials and struggles, however I do think it's easy to go to the opposite extreme and live without the joy that we have in the resurrected Christ.

Hedonism by definition is motivated by selfishness (motivation, by the way, is an untapped cause of many divisions in society today, but that's another topic.) But the Bible actually speaks about good pleasure, the kind that results from our worship of him. God designed humans for joy, fun, contentment, ecstasy (in a non-drug sort of way) all to worship him. Sex, for example. Humans, with the exception of pigs, are the only beings that enjoy intercourse. The others go at it because of animal instincts. Worship? Of course. Then there's the world--creation--nature. What God would create such a beautiful world if not for our enjoyment? What God would create humans with emotions--with the capacity to feel amused and humored occasionally? And like my mom would say, what God would create penguins if he didn't want us to laugh? And yes, all of it is for his worship.

So what does this have to do with words? WIth living deep? It wasn't until I took my first linguistics class that I saw the power in words--the sort of power that even Superman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can't match. The book of James talks about the power of the tongue and words. Proverbs 12:18 says that "reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." The power of words and speech and tongue are all over the Bible, because words do not stand alone. They represent meaning and motivation and whether we admit it or not, truth. And their existence is strung by the God who IS. The God who is, who was, and who is to come--the I AM--he spoke the first words, and life happened. Breath happened. Love happened. And it is for his good pleasure that we subsist.

We all have plenty of chances to make an impression on people we meet. We can bring hurt or healing, life or death. I choose to write for his pleasure, and those around me. I hope I live deeply for the same reason I write: to communicate truth and meaning, wrapped in the pleasure of worship.