Reflection: Nonfiction Writing

My ability to write in the nonfiction genre–whether it’s a creative flash piece, a commentary, or a fieldwork project–has improved greatly in the past few months. Studying how both famous authors (such as George Orwell and Tom Wolfe) and lesser known authors (such as Lillian Ross and Michael Winerip), use literary techniques to heighten their observations and research has allowed me to experiment and develop my own creative voice.

Using these literary techniques and writing nonfiction outside of an academic tone and purpose–especially during my senior year–has been both refreshing and useful. I’ve enjoyed writing for purposes that weren’t tied to proving a clever–but ultimately useless and distorted–thesis or being tethered to the tangential ideas or biases of a GSI in order to obtain a good grade. Instead, focusing on writing in a meaningful and effective manner–along with the readings, exercises, and assignments demonstrating this–has allowed me to further practice writing that has greater longevity and usefulness (for both creative and non-creative purposes): communicating in an accessible manner, eschewing jargon and obscurity, and using literary techniques to emphasize the truth of experiences or details.

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Reflection: Fieldwork and Investigative Writing

Fieldworking and investigative writing was a new experience for me. Although I had never written anything like this, I thought my previous experience in writing news articles for a student newspaper (mainly covering school or community events) would help with this form of writing. Specifically, I thought my previous experience in interviewing strangers for articles might make it slightly easier for me to walk up and question random people — but this wasn’t the case.

The end of a career panel on jobs in the field of Human Resources in the Blue & Gold Room of the CareerCenter.

The end of a career panel where attendees get to talk with the guest speakers, as well as each other.

It wasn’t just the common experience of finding people unwilling to talk on record (a regular bump in these forums that will hold public quotes and sources accountable for any statement). But what I hadn’t realized was that I was simply rusty. It had been more than two years since I had officially interviewed someone to be used as a source and most of my recent writing has been limited to academic essays, with audiences enclosed to the limited circle of professors, graduate student instructors (GSIs), and classmates. In addition the time-heavy requirements of my classes and assignments had made me overly used to solitude. So, when I wanted or tried to talk to new people for the purpose of having them as a source, I would become hesitant and fearful of the interaction — a reaction I thought I had conquered years ago. But it came back. As I approached potential sources, I stuttered and and my mind blanked. It was as if I had lost the interviewing skills I previously had.

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Reflection: Writing a Memory Narrative

At first I was unsure about writing a memory-based narrative for Brevity‘s flash nonfiction contest. I was most worried about choosing an interesting topic to write about without getting overly personal. Before it was even discussed in class, I already knew I didn’t want to write about anything traumatic or too heavy. But when I sat down at my computer, everything that popped into my head were things too personal that I didn’t want to put to paper — much less condense into 500 words (or less). Finding my topic was probably the hardest and longest part of writing the memory narrative. Continue reading

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