My fairly typical life path was thrown off when I lost the job I planned to stay with for five years. I was on a job hunt for about twenty minutes before deciding to follow my heart: I gave up my home and started traveling. I experienced things that made me laugh, things that moved me, things that changed my outlook drastically. And I wanted to write about them all. Not just in my journal… I wanted to mold them into some sort of story. I have notes from my first trip out west, blips of potential stories, characters, endings. But when I sat down to turn them into fiction, my passion for the project evaporated.
I read more Chuck Klosterman, Bill Bryson, David Sedaris. I thought, This is how I need to write about those ideas. They were mine, I needed to own them rather than attribute them to thinly-veiled fictional characters. It was a little scary, somehow, writing nonfiction. Fiction was almost all I grew up reading, unless you count rock star biographies. Fiction was my minor in undergrad, my focus in grad school.
I took one workshop during my MFA that was a "crossover" class - merging fiction and nonfiction. I went out and interviewed funeral directors and embalmers for the piece, and I loved the journalistic approach. But I remembered my time as an undergrad journalism student, and knew I didn't want to get back to that place, either. It took a lot of reading and experimental writing to realize I fit into the creative nonfiction genre better than fiction or more rigid nonfiction.
The point to all this brainspew is that I used to be a fiction writer, but I don't think I am anymore. Sometimes it's hard to write about my life and thoughts as nonfiction, because it feels self-indulgent. Why do I think my life is special enough to write about? Why do I think my opinions are strong enough to be an essay or article?
I'm just getting started on all of this. I've completed a draft of an essay collection that's been in the works for a year or two. Now comes the editing. And while I do so, I want to treat writing like it's my job. I want to write pieces for publication, because that's one of the exciting things about nonfiction. You can write on a certain topic, for a certain outlet, and submit it to them. I've submitted stories, but blindly. I look over my finished pieces and pick out a few to submit each quarter to fulfill my goal. I search Duotrope for a few journals that publish similar things, and I send them out there.
I used to think Writer's Market was too expensive to buy, so two years ago I found a 2003 edition at a used book sale (one dolla!). Even then, I hardly cracked it open. With my renewed desire to write and submit, I decided to buy the 2013 edition, since it just came out and wasn't as expensive as my broke college self used to think. There are four main sections, and I'm going to treat each of these chapters as it's own book and study for the last four months of the year. I'm hoping that breaking it down into manageable bits like that will help me accomplish more, so I can take 2013 by writing storm!