A kind of ethical or spiritual discipline

I think sometimes about writing nonfiction as a kind of ethical or spiritual discipline.  The true thing, told plainly, is not always the thing that makes the liveliest story.  In real life, the bon mot wasn’t always uttered, the climax didn’t happen in a setting with an objective correlative handy, and the good guy didn’t always triumph.  Life resists plot–at least on the surface.  To entertain–or to “teach and delight,” in the classical formulation–it’s sometimes simpler to turn to another genre.  But if we decide to pursue creative nonfiction, then the truth (our own remembered, subjective truth) functions as do the rhyme and meter requirements of a sonnet.  It offers us boundaries, discipline.  We are faithful to it.  It pressures us into discovering the material’s own form, into making a new thing that is compelling.

Joy Castro

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