What is Creative Non-Fiction?

Creative Non-Fiction is your diary hidden under the mattress, your travelogues, your WordPress blog, it’s your overflowing binder of recipes, erotica, your favorite fan-fiction, it’s your advice columns, Yelp reviews, satire news articles, and literary criticism. And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Literary Journalism

Creative Non-Fiction, also known as Literary Journalism, makes a great example of how flexible the practice and art form of writing truly is. Most of us adhere to the simple understanding of fiction and non-fiction being categorized by how factual the writing is.

Creative Non-Fiction purposely blurs these lines.

That fact alone is the reason why it is my preferred genre and the reason why I absolutely adore it so much. It is a reminder that a person’s individual truth is often subjective, whereas a concrete, well-supported fact, is not.

Creative Non-Fiction enjoys dipping its toes in and out of sub-genres, rubbing people the wrong way, while often dancing all over and challenging a critic’s claims.

Sub-Genres

A basis for understanding this concept can be seen when observing sub-genres such as poetry, song-writing, or script-writing. Unlike personal essays or memoirs, where the foundation is, in fact, real life, such a rule cannot be measured or tested in all works. Only the writer can verify whether or not their poetry, song-writing, or script is derived from real life, and how much of it is. Creative elements within poetry, song-writing, and script-writing, as well as style or theme, make such a claim impossible to measure.

You’re Probably Already Doing It

Many types of writing, many of which you probably do often in your day-to-day life, is considered Creative Non-Fiction. In fact, journals, not to be confused with diaries, are the most common types of Creative Non-Fiction. Diaries are typically a type of Journal in which you log or document the events of your day-to-day life, however, a Journal is any kind of written log — anything written with the intention to reference later. This can be a collection of recipes or a comprehensive guide to completing your long-term goals.

Literature vs. Journalism

Why has Creative Non-Fiction taken on the nickname of Literary Journalism? First, we must consider what Literature is, and why it holds value in Journalism. Literature, more specifically, is considered written work with a strong creative or artistic touch. Literature is the poetic element; the story-telling. It is the parts of writing that bring forth pleasure, imagery and other emotions. Journalism, objectively, is the reporting of facts. It often strives to inform the reader of events that are happening around them.

What Creative Non-Fiction Means to Me

Without Creative Non-Fiction, this blog would not exist. Scar Tissue would not exist. Without Creative Non-Fiction, the power and influence of storytelling would not exist. Perspective would not exist. Connecting with the world would not exist. Learning about the world would not exist. The comments section would not exist. The conversation would not exist. My truth would not exist. Your truth would not exist.

The Future of Creative Non-Fiction

Today, journalists instill elements of Creative Writing into their news reporting in order to make their stories more compelling. Many would advocate that this strategy blurs the facts — that it is all but a competitive tactic driven by media giants to maximize readership, consumption and profit. There is no doubt that the capitalistic nature of mass media influences what is produced, as well as what is distributed.

However, the beauty of art, language, and literature is that we are free to write what we want. And, most importantly, we are most free when we do it. We can always write another story, a better story. We can always bring forth another perspective. We can always change the minds of our audience.

Keep creating. Keep writing. Keep sharing with the world.

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Writer’s Corner | The Self-Centered Routine

Prioritize You

Terrible title, isn’t it?  Here are two totally bad words, self-centered and routine, and I’m asking you to consider rediscovering the meaning for both. The truth is, it’s okay to prioritize you. You should be at the center of your life. But, what exactly does it mean to be at the center of your life? It does not mean to dismiss or not care for others. However, it does mean that your visions should come before the visions of others. You should be investing majority of your time in yourself — not others. I like to think of myself as someone who passionately serves others, and makes it a firm goal in my life to actively do so, however, the one person whom I serve most of all is myself. Additionally, having a routine doesn’t mean your life is suddenly void of any ounce of fun or impromptu excitement. Although I am far from mastering the routine, I do put myself at the center of it, each and every day, and, although my routine, alike all self-improvement techniques, is a work-in-progress, I realize the power of putting my dreams on a pedestal. I realize there is real magic in putting myself first.

The Daily Routine

The greatest creative visionaries of all time had a secret weapon. Their secret weapon, the rule that both Woody Allen and Ernest Hemingway adhered to, was in fact the daily routine. Hemingway wrote 500 words a day, rain or shine. Allen once said that success is 80% showing up.

If you want to create something worthwhile in your lifetime, if you want to write things, make things, do things, be things – you need not wait for inspiration to come knocking. Honey, you break that door down. You show up, and you work.

Habit and Discipline

I often whine to friends about my creative dry spells. For years, in fact, I did not write, and you know what? I hadn’t done a damn thing about it.

Today I know that it wasn’t inspiration I was lacking, but habit and discipline. In fact, I wrote over 100,000 words in 2017, more words than I have written in my entire life, and I did most of it at a Starbucks — a block away from the homeless shelter I was sleeping at.

So, clearly, I wasn’t lacking creativity, I was lacking the sheer will to write. The hardest decision then becomes not the writing, the making, the doing, the being, but the prioritizing — prioritizing it over everything and everyone else.

In my second year of college, I wrote and published my first book. During this time, I had few responsibilities. So, naturally, it was easy for me to say, “Hey, I’m going to write this book, and I officially don’t give a shit about anything else until it’s finished.”

I had a similar reaction when I became homeless in 2017.  I thought, well, I could sit in this shelter, I could stare at these four walls for another hour, or I could get off my ass, walk over to the Starbucks, and write. And, so I did. In both cases, I did almost nothing but write for days on end. I was so immersed in my work, that I didn’t care very much about anything else. The second time though, it probably also saved my life.

Now, more than ever, I realize habit and discipline are the true keys to any craft, to any vision, to any goal.

Become Completely Unavailable

All you have to do is pick a few hours out of your day where you become completely unavailable. For a few hours, at dawn or dusk, you simply fall off the face of the earth. No phone, no e-mail, no social media – you become completely unavailable.

I promise you, you won’t miss a thing. That text message isn’t dire, neither is that e-mail. I’m sure by now you’ve realized just how unpopular this decision will make you. Listen, they will survive without you for a few hours, and if they’re sensible human beings, or give a single crap about you, they’ll understand. Worrying about the priorities of others makes you miss out on your own.

If you can sit down and write that novel, even for 15 minutes, you will inevitably finish that novel. Making that commitment, each day, no matter how small, is what leads to results. Even the smallest of efforts eventually turn into big results.

You’re Not Actually Showing Up If You’re Not Working

How will you make the most of those precious 15 minutes? Yes, although 80% of success is showing up, you’re not actually showing up if you’re not working. But, you can show up, each day, with a stellar game plan, regardless if you’re there for 15 minutes or 15 hours. You should probably take breaks though, if you plan to take the 15 hour route.

Time Management

Although planners are a great investment, they’re really only effective if you use them well and often. I love planners, but I am not consistent with them. I actually believe that things naturally get done when you’re disciplined, and a planner can’t help you shake the lazy. Although planners do serve a purpose in my life, they’re no more than a fancy to-do list.

In my opinion, all you really need is a cheap notebook and a pen. All you need is a short list of goals for the day. On this list, everyday, you will include your creative work. I wholeheartedly believe that most things can wait until tomorrow, and there is really no purpose in doing things before they need to get done. There are more important things to do than what can be put off until tomorrow.

Set Firm Edges

This section is all about why I think multitasking prevents us from reaching our ultimate potential. Give everything you do your full attention. This is not to say that multi-tasking doesn’t have its own place, but the work that we’re doing — creative work — it has no place.

This is not your office gig. This is not data-entry. To create something remarkable, you need to be at your best, bring your best, and focus your best — all of your energy into your work. A great thing requires all of your attention.

This is essentially why setting firm edges is too important to ignore. What do I mean by firm edges? You need to be strict about when you make time for creative work and the quality of the work you’re doing during this time. Nothing is to bleed into the next section, or into the one you’re currently working in. You begin when it’s time, and you stop when it’s time, and you do nothing but what it is intended to be done during this time. In short, do not multi-task.

Energy Levels

Most of us have a time of day in which we’re most alert and energetic. This is the best time for creative work. This is not the time for data-entry! Or washing dishes. You may not realize it now, but these are truly the most valuable moments of your day. This is when you’re at your best, so anything important or difficult that needs to get done, should be done at this time. I find early mornings to be the best time for work. Preferably before the rest of the house has awoken. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and open your favorite word processor. You need to find a space where you can be with just you and your creative mind for a few minutes, or hours. Mastering this part has a lot to do with getting to know yourself. The same can be said about the next, and last section of this post.

Creative Triggers

Believe it or not, familiarity can trigger creative energy far more easily than new landscapes. When we put ourselves into a routine, giving ourselves surroundings that are familiar, it sends a trigger to our brains that says, “Hey kid! It’s time for work!” It is also comfortable and puts us in a calm state of mind. We are not busy processing and taking in all the new multi-sensory surroundings, therefore, we can focus and get to work.

The Hardest Part?

Figuring out what makes you tick as an artist is only half the battle. Consider that you found your routine, you honed your craft, and you mastered your practice. Unfortunately, it’s not over. Believe it or not, the actual hard part has not even begun yet! An artist’s primary goal is rarely ever monetary gain, but it is often exposure.

More so, the ability to connect and relate to their audience. I think artists specifically want to reach people, and lock hearts and minds with another, even for just a moment. The problem is, in order for an artist to do this, they must actually become salesmen. They sell their ideas, their words, and, of course, themselves. This requires the artist to become brave.

Do you want to know what’s even harder than that – what’s harder than the hardest thing of all? It is the fear of being criticized and deemed a fraud. It’s actually *not* being a genius or the world’s most extraordinary undiscovered artist. This is a shared concerned by me, you, and everyone else on earth.

You and I, we’re telling the world, “Hey! I worked super hard on this! I poured my heart, soul, and literal brain into it — I kind of, sort of, believe I might be good at this. Maybe, just maybe, I know what I’m talking about.” When in fact, you’re learning, like me. You’re just trying to do what feels right. You’re just doing your best.

I am no expert. There are no true masters here. We are all learning.

We’re all getting better. We’re all doing extraordinary things.

But there is one thing that I do know: Successful artists work hard at their routine, and at their craft, but even more so, accepts they have much to learn. They know we can all become a little bit stronger, a little bit better, a little bit smarter, by opening our eyes and ears to each other.

Sunday Scribbles — August 12, 2018

Although I slept in this morning, I still woke up in a bit of a slump. I was sad that the weekend had, once again, passed me by with very little notice to me. Do you ever wish you could just stop time? That you could relish in this moment for a little bit longer? I do.

Thomas dragged me out of the house and into the middle of a monsoon. Not on purpose. At least I don’t think so. Perhaps that was his plan all along — to walk all but six blocks in the middle of heavy rain and winds — to watch me wade through that quickly-formed river along Shore Road, without even the sensible option of covered shoes.

I’m hardly complaining. I arrived home to a freshly-pressed jersey robe; still warm from the dryer.

How was your week? Did you do anything exciting over the weekend? Was it productive? Relaxing? For me, it was a bit of both. I continue to feel grateful for my 3-day weekend. How blessed am I to have enough time and energy to write? To blog and spend time with my readers? To share what matters to me?

This evening, I feel comforted by the roof over my head, the food in my fridge, and the peace in my heart.

Highlights of the Week

After ignoring the advice from a most sensible source, my dearest friend Nicole, I finally opened a credit-building CD savings account. This was long overdue.

My only other option, in regards to credit-building, is a secured credit card. I figure I’ll probably do that eventually, but it’s not my top priority or first choice. I see the benefits of having a credit card, and eventually building a large-enough credit line for emergencies, but that’s not likely something I’ll do very soon.

I’m also on my way to refinancing and paying down my student loans. I printed out the necessary applications and expect to mail them out this week.

These are extremely big achievements for me. None of which I expected would happen just six months after leaving a homeless shelter. It represents hope. I can continue to look towards the future and see possibility and resolution.

What’s Next?

The next Sunday Scribbles is scheduled on my birthday. Yup, that’s right! I’m turning the ripe ol’ age of 28 on the 19th. Terrifying isn’t it? I feel like I’ve been terrified of getting older since the day I was born. Aging scares me. Something about running out of time, about missing “it”, really freaks me out. Maybe that’s why I write so much about it — my life that is. Because if I don’t think about life, if I don’t write, if I don’t reflect, if I don’t document this moment, I’ll get lost forever.

In other news, in much bigger news, in fact, I’m taking a break from Scar Tissue. My most recent chapter, Season, will likely be the last one you’ll see from me for a while. I feel sad about this. I really think this is my best writing. I think it’s the most important writing I’ve ever done. But, because I am reliving these experiences, because I’m reliving those really painful moments, writing Scar Tissue is making it very hard for me to move forward, to move on, and to heal. At first I thought it would be cathartic, and in a way, for a while, it has been. But, over time, the process has just become very mentally and emotionally taxing.

What’s interesting is, sometimes, when homeless people finally get housed, when they leave the homeless shelter, they try to leave that life behind. They want nothing to do with homelessness and other homeless people. I didn’t quite take that approach. Recovery is very complicated. As you’ve probably read in a few of my chapters, any ounce of “normalcy” is extremely important while homeless. Even now, it still is. I’m still, even now, struggling with my identity and who I was before homelessness happened. When I think about who I am, I’m still largely identifying with homelessness, with being homeless in the past. But I am not just formally homeless. That has nothing to do with my personality or who I am as a person.

How do I get past that? Well, I need to take a moment to think about where I’m headed; where I’ve been and where I want to go. I have to think back before homelessness was a part of my narrative. Who was that person? What did her future look like before homelessness was a part of her narrative?

I’m starting to set goals and reflect on those goals again. One of my largest goals at the beginning of 2018 was to land a job in academia. Now that I am actually working in academia again, I also find myself in a position of having a mentor who can guide me along this path. I have enough security, comfort and space for growth and I want to ensure that I continue to take the proper steps in order to cultivate that growth later on down the line.

I want to be on my way to what’s next. I hope you’ll still be here once I make it.

Love to you all.

Thank you for everything.

Truly.

Scar Tissue | 26.) Season

There I was, in Dollar Tree, standing in front of the most magnificent Fall display. It was only the first week of August and I was already admiring that inappropriately timed seasonal decor.

I was enjoying normalcy.

I was making the important decision between glitter pumpkin magnets and the more chic pastel tone maple leaves. I wanted them both. I wanted them all.

I liked to think of my apartment as a space in which I could eventually carve into a home.

I liked to think I could settle here.

That I’d allow this place to bring me comfort.

That I would just trust God for a moment.

That I would stop being so angry for a moment.

That I’d allow myself to rest here.

That, at the end of the night, I’d leave my heart on the dresser before crawling into bed.

Last Halloween, I put these string lights and glittery bat stickers around our cheap metal bed frame. Not even a week later, in the middle of a random shelter inspection, I was asked to take them down.

Now, no one can tell me to take down my pumpkin magnets.

Theoretically, I could cover every inch of my entire fridge in pumpkin magnets. Sure, it might be a waste of money. Sure, it might look silly. Hell, these cheapo magnets might fly off the front of the fridge as I jerk the freezer door open — but shit, I would not lose my home over a stupid fucking magnet.

So, yeah. I bought them.

 

 

 

 

Author’s Note:

I just want to take a moment to tell you how grateful I am to all of you.

Each and every reader.

Each and every comment.

Thank you for taking a walk with me. Thank you for staying a while. Thank you for showing me so much grace.

And, with that, I am going to part with Scar Tissue for a while.

With each chapter I write, I feel it harder and harder to move on. Reliving these moments is so very emotionally taxing on me. Perhaps writing about the past keeps me there.

I’m not abandoning the project, just making room for more.

I need to give myself a chance. I deserve a chance to heal and move on.

Love to you all.

 

 

 

 

For the last ten months, we have been navigating the New York City shelter system.  From Manhattan to Queens, back to Manhattan, and finally, to Brooklyn. We’ve been all over this beautiful city.
Eight months prior, we stepped foot in a courtroom. We spent most of 2017 fighting tooth and nail – a rent overcharge and neglected repairs. It’s unbelievable how much a landlord, a single person, can cause this much pain in a person’s life. It’s scary how quickly our lives can fall apart at the hand’s of another.
I have collected nearly 100,000 words documenting our journey. In Scar Tissue, I will share with you pieces of my collection.
© 2018 Jocelyn Figueroa All Rights Reserved “Scar Tissue”

Scar Tissue | 25.) Lost

A few things I’ve lost to homelessness:

Hope for the future.
Everything I’ve built; the results of hard work.
The manuscript of the first book I wrote.
My cat.
A soft beating heart.
Photographs.
A quilt my Grandmother sown for our first wedding anniversary.
Dozens of filled journals.
Sketches.
Textbooks.
Poetry.
Canvas art procured from an overflowing dumpster the first week we arrived in NYC.
My love and adoration for NYC.
My faith in humanity.
Respect for authority.
Respect for laws.
Respect for landlords.
A taste for life.
An interest in living.
Birthday cards.
Letters.
Every research paper I’ve ever written, and each draft destroyed by red pencil.
Sanity.
Comfort.
Myself.

 

 

For the last ten months, we have been navigating the New York City shelter system.  From Manhattan to Queens, back to Manhattan, and finally, to Brooklyn. We’ve been all over this beautiful city.
Eight months prior, we stepped foot in a courtroom. We spent most of 2017 fighting tooth and nail – a rent overcharge and neglected repairs. It’s unbelievable how much a landlord, a single person, can cause this much pain in a person’s life. It’s scary how quickly our lives can fall apart at the hand’s of another.
I have collected nearly 100,000 words documenting our journey. In Scar Tissue, I will share with you pieces of my collection.
© 2018 Jocelyn Figueroa All Rights Reserved “Scar Tissue”

Scar Tissue | 24.) Ceremony

My wedding dress was measured, sown, and shipped – just a week before our impromptu wedding in Central Park.

I wonder what the chances are that my wedding dress is now ripped, torn, and sitting in a landfill. We only had enough room left in our duffel bag for either a blanket or my wedding dress. I left my dress, as it, in a garment bag, in the closet, when the sheriffs came.

I wonder if my wedding dress made it’s way to a Salvation Army. Another girl, in another world, recites vows to her lover, in which the universe designed just for her.

A moment of love now stolen by cruelty.

Sometimes I have these bouts of rage. Fury arrives in my fist, before slamming down on this $35 desk, that I type this chapter from, that I ordered from Amazon, just a few days after moving in. It’s unusual to be this angry on an anniversary. A wedding anniversary, of all anniversaries.

I’ve been housed for 6 months. There’s an anniversary. Homeless for almost a year. No anniversary there. No ceremony.

Those 10 months felt like 10 years, you know? These 6 months felt like 6 days.

The front door creaks,
despite it’s sturdy hinges.
In the doorway, there is a mirror,
still, with that stranger staring back at me.

I tell her,
you are no longer wandering corridors,
you are no longer a ghost,

in a body,
haunting your present.

Come back,
I plead.

But she runs away again.

 

 

 

For the last ten months, we have been navigating the New York City shelter system.  From Manhattan to Queens, back to Manhattan, and finally, to Brooklyn. We’ve been all over this beautiful city.
Eight months prior, we stepped foot in a courtroom. We spent most of 2017 fighting tooth and nail – a rent overcharge and neglected repairs. It’s unbelievable how much a landlord, a single person, can cause this much pain in a person’s life. It’s scary how quickly our lives can fall apart at the hand’s of another.
I have collected nearly 100,000 words documenting our journey. In Scar Tissue, I will share with you pieces of my collection.
© 2018 Jocelyn Figueroa All Rights Reserved “Scar Tissue”

Breaking News! Rompers are in; Homelessness is trending

(aren’t I a hoot?)

Social media does a lot of weird and downright frightening things. If you haven’t already guessed, rompers are indeed in. What’s a romper you might ask? Well, it’s basically a very short jumpsuit. In the occasion where you have to urinate, you’re in for a disaster. The entire ensemble drops to your ankles and you’re totally naked while sitting on the toilet. It’s fun. And kind of chilly.

So, what’s trending on social media these days? Weird stuff. Lots and lots of weird and shitty stuff.

My favorites include:

The “homeless challenge” where people pitch tents in the backyard of their expensive homes to simulate homelessness. Because that’s apparently comparable to real homelessness? No, in fact, it’s not. It’s so *not* that it’s kind of offense that you’d think it is!

That’s hardly the tip of the iceberg, either. I’ve noticed a lot of these supposed feel good “social experiments” on the rise, where it’s purpose is to “share positive and heartwarming messages”. Whom exactly are at the center of these experiments? Homeless people. More often than not, at the expense of homeless people. I’ve seen several videos of young men going around dropping their wallets in front of panhandlers and camping sites. It’s become kind of an internet sensation. Here is an example of this type of experiment.

Well, I don’t see a problem with that, Jocelyn! Think again. See, in the event that the homeless person is “morally good” and returns the wallet, they’re “rewarded for their good actions”. That — that right there is extremely problematic. A homeless person deserves dignity and respect, regardless of where you’d like to place them upon your moral compass. Even more so, homeless people deserve our help, regardless if whether or not they would have returned that wallet or not.

I’ve seen tons of these videos, and they all have millions of views. This is not the first (and probably won’t be the last) highly-problematic messaging I’ve witnessed about homeless people — especially in regards to this sort of “good” vs “bad” act. Is this really a surprise though, considering it isn’t a new concept that poor people are seen as morally bad? It’s actually quite common, in fact, and, not to mention, a massive roadblock to much needed social and economic change.

In short, everything about these so-called “experiments” is awful. Not only does a video like this do nothing to end homelessness, but can you imagine how damaging this can be on the public’s perception of homeless people?

Breaking News! It’s actually kind of shitty to exploit a homeless person for views. Don’t do it.