Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Creative Nonfiction for the Creatively Confused

I am enrolled in a year-long writing workshop at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

I turned in a few pieces so far, and am supposed to have sent in a short proposal in yesterday. It's a proposal for a critical essay, supported by a book, or several books, or some research.

And I didn't turn it in. Because as it turns out, I have nothing to say.

I am as astonished by this turn of events as you are. Cuz normally, I got lots to say.

But I find myself at a loss as to how to support what I spout off with the me-spouting-off just being a tiny part of the article, and the research and literary references being the bulk of the article.

For example, I'd like to write an essay on the loss of "home." How rambling around the world on and off for eight years, living in six or seven other places since 2001 (and let's not even get started on that year) resulted in a seemingly permanent loss of roots. I am a citizen of everywhere, but at home nowhere. I float along through communities without being a part of them.

But that's just me talking, not references to a book.

I'd also like to cover the new style of African story, how we've left behind the Ernest Hemingway safari books and the "what a quaint Peace Corps experience" books and moved into "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" and "The House at Sugar Beach."

And I think, whoa, that's big. Can I read an array of books and say something intelligent about it in 1,300 words, in just a few weeks? That's probably way too ambitious. Don't forget I teach, have a day job, and have another writing class on Monday nights.

I'm kind of baffled by this assignment. Not in theory, I mean. I understand the concept. It's a critical essay like you'd read on the last page of the New York Times Review of Books. But it's not something I can just knock out, and I don't really know what I'd like to write about.

I'm stumped.

No comments: