My creative nonfiction course in college years ago taught me many lessons. The class proved good experience for my future writing. I learned that I had created a Rolodex of topics that were off limits to write about without realizing it. My professor asked us one day about the possibility of writing an autobiography. She was interested in knowing if any of her students were bold enough to write about our lives without the rose colored glasses. How many of us could trudge through dirty waters in order to tell our truths? We would also have to reveal these new nuggets with the full realization that family and friends were going to be angry or hurt.
In a class of about 25 students, only a quarter told us they were fearless and that they would definitely write about their lives knowing how it could affect loved ones. The rest of us were split in the middle between not wanting to write an autobiography at all or writing it after our parents had passed away. I was among the crowd who didn’t want to write about myself at all. I didn’t want my family to hate me.
Fast forward to 2015 and now I think I feel a little different. Writers have to learn to write about things that are a little uncomfortable – with no apologies required. I would never write a traditional autobiography – that has not changed. Yet, I would write about my life in stages. I have no qualms retelling certain events that forever changed me. Young people need to know they are not alone in feeling sad or angry dealing with life’s crazy events. I am at an age where I am old enough to give some sage advice to the preteens but young enough to still remember how peer pressure took over life in middle school/junior high.
Kids should hear these stories. I would tell my nieces and nephews my stories with no apologies. I would tell them, “it happened…I made stupid mistakes but then I moved on.” I wish I could yell you are not the only one that felt isolated in high school to every teenage loner. Older adults have had so many various experiences by the time they are 50 and 60 that they don’t remember what it’s like to be 12 or 17. I do. I remember it like it was yesterday, and it wasn’t all peaches and cream.
This year I am taking new steps – I will be writing something “like a book” but in more vignette form, revisiting certain times in my life that represent fear, anger, sadness, etc. I want young people to learn something from my little stories. I hate reading autobiography/self-help books from A-list people only to come away feeling that they were just being self-centered. If I didn’t learn anything from it that can be positively applied to my life, then what is the point?!
I would only want to write about themes that speak for everyone. As a black female – I don’t just write for my race or my gender. I love playing around with point of view. I don’t just write from the perspective of females.
I am working on more unapologetic writing for 2016. Stay tuned.