Reading so many blogs, notes, Facebook posts, literary reviews, and articles in journals and newspapers on the subject of creative nonfiction and memoir, and I have come to this conclusion: DUMP THE LABELS.
It seems the only reason we have labels in the art of writing is to categorize work for the sake of an editor and the shelves of a book store (brick-and-mortar or virtual), but in reality, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Oh sure, we want the reader to “know” what he/she is getting, but I wonder if that really matters anymore. Good reading comes from good writing, and labeling what genre it is just doesn’t seem relevant in today’s world.
Memoir crosses the boundaries of journalism, fiction craft, and personal anecdotes. Creative nonfiction has elements of fiction writing, memoir, essay, journalism, and scene sketches. Fiction, as it always has been, many times (even if just partly) coming from personal experience that somehow enhances, exploits, makes bigger, becomes more poignant in order to create an imagined story. But all of it – every bit of it – comes from one place – the human experience. The lines are so blurred now, does it matter what silo we drop our stories into?
I can’t tell you the times I have written a piece – be it memoir, essay, fiction, journalism – and the reader or and editor asks me — IS THAT TRUE? That question arises no matter what the genre. Sometimes I say “yes” – sometimes I say “partly” – sometimes I say “well, a little” – sometimes I say “I think so, but it’s MY truth. Others may think differently.” So, if the question is always the same – IS THAT TRUE? DID THAT REALLY HAPPEN? – why put a label on it. The reader’s reaction is the same.
Dump the labels and write; write what is in your heart, what is relevant, emotional, passionate, telling, engaging, compelling. Drop the categories and tell the good story, one that resonates over and over again, true or not.