Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gold in Them Notebooks, Part 7

Lately, I've been finding inspiration in the dog-eared pages of my old MFA notebooks, and sharing with my readers some of the good advice I'm finding there.

From a seminar on story in creative nonfiction:

• The apparent subject lies on the surface, neat and calm. The real story lies underneath. It's very messy and has emotional urgency. Always keep asking yourself, "What's the real story?"
• Some reasons writers often don't get to the real story – shame, fear, laziness, the inner critic, time; not yet understanding the real story; not ready to deal with the real story.
• To uncover the real story, alter the way you look at things. Read other material – read what you love, and see what opens the doors. Be like a bloodhound; keep sniffing around, keep moving; do free writing to find what moves you.
• How to know when it's not there yet: You're bored. You are relying on writing and not on story. It feels dutiful. You are unable to title it. You can't imagine an ideal reading audience for the piece.
--Barbara Hurd, literary nonfiction essayist and mentor extraordinaire

The first six MFA Notebooks posts can be found here.

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