For a long time—a decade or so—I refused to write non-fiction. I never liked it. I didn’t read it, I didn’t write it. The only exception was for school assignments, which I thoroughly hacked together for the best non-failing grade available.
What did I have against writing non-fiction? A simple phrase told to writers the world over: “Write what you know.” And, unfortunately, I’ve never known much.
This is why for many years, from childhood to adulthood, I stuck with fiction. With fiction, even the parts that have to seem true don’t have to be true. Everything can be made up, twisted, bastardized. And what do you have to know to make things up? Nothing. Just a basic understanding of how the world works—or how it should work, even.
I have droves of short stories, flash fiction, novellas, novels, scripts, poems, and comics sitting in my closets and on my computer. For all those years I made things up, wrote fiction piece after fiction piece. I defined myself on these fake stories; built worlds, destroyed lives. For decades I’ve played god in the form of written word. All because I didn’t know enough about anything to write non-fiction.
In the gaps of those stacks of fiction writings are several notebooks with ten, twenty, thirty pages of attempted journals. I’ve always loved the idea of writing a journal, but could never quite get the hang of it. There are some dark secrets in those journals—some so dark that they would cause me to stop writing in them all together.
This led me to realize something a few years ago: I do know something. I know all about one thing—and possibly only one thing in this entire world. I know me. I know who I am and what I am. I know how I do things and, usually, why. But I still could not bring myself to maintain a journal. It was too much work knowing something so singularly and yet so personal.
That was all before I gave into myself, though. You see, at some point in the past year I decided to simply be myself, even when around other people. For so many years I tried to be who I thought I should be, or who I thought people wouldn’t judge. But that’s just an excuse to hide behind the curtains. When I pushed them aside and stepped out into the crowded room, however, I found the lighting much more flattering*.
Thus, when I learned to be me, I learned to write about myself. You’ll notice that this blog was started less than a year ago, and how it’s progressively become entries about me rather than the mix of essays-and-memoirs it started out as. Sometimes I’m wary about this, but in general I feel good about it. It means I’m more comfortable with who I am. It means I feel like I can allow others to see me for who I am. But most of all, it frees me up to write about the only thing I’m the sole expert on: Me.
I’ve since found that I like to read non-fiction items. And while I can read most anything that’s well-written, I tend to prefer memoirs and autobiographies. Part of that is because I find people fascinating, but another big reason is because memoirs and autobiographies are people talking about the one thing that they’re the sole experts on.
While I still can’t bring myself to write a daily journal, I find that I can type out one entry about myself once a week. Even in these tidbits I can find truth about—and therefore know better—myself.
So even if existence as a whole is just one man’s dream, at least I’ll always know one thing: Who I am.