On Erections & Nonfiction Essays

Nonfiction Essays. Photo Credit – Flickr: mugley

“All our final decisions are made in a state of mind that is not going to last.” Marcel Proust

Many creations begin with the intent to communicate an emotion or state of mind.

Nonfiction essays are no exception, but unlike works of fiction, nonfiction writing rests upon a straightforward notion that the writer and reader share the same reality.

Instead of transporting you to a fictional universe with imagined circumstances and characters, the nonfiction writer observes and deconstructs the world that is already familiar to the reader.

With fiction, there is an implied distance between the writer and the manuscript and necessary space between the writer and the reader. The story is disconnected from the author.

This is also the case in some nonfiction work, but reflective, prescriptive, or philosophical essays tend to incorporate the author. The reader views a topic through the writer’s mind.

This type of nonfiction writing can cause an uneasiness and anxiety for the author when a piece of text is published, promoted, or read at a later time. The essay may have been erected from an emotion or state of mind that no longer exists for the author.

The erection is fleeting; the creation is permanent.

Does such a case affect a nonfiction essay’s authenticity?

In my book about tattoo philosophy, I address the creation of a tattoo as the intersection of performance art and visual art.

The philosophy of art highlights the transient nature of creations and emotions. With nonfiction, your feelings transform as you write and they continue to evolve.

Once a creation exists, it continues to take on a life of its own as viewers interpret the art based on their own experiences.

Emotional evolution and identity formation are also present when I write about dealing with heartbreak.

The debate the nonfiction writer has with herself revolves around the question, “Is that really what I think?”

Ultimately, you choose a stance and support it—open to the possibility your outlook may shift and almost inevitability your emotions will change by the time you publish and promote.

At the time a nonfiction essay is presented to the public, the writer may have the same distance from the work as a fiction author, even though her subjectivity is an integral part of the creation.

The nonfiction author is not inauthentic because of this separation, but rather a performer who relives past emotions in order to make art.

There is a performance aspect embedded in nonfiction essays that is not reserved only for fiction.

It reveals the complexity of truth.

How to Overcome Heartbreak

Stefanie Flaxman is the creator of @RevisionFairy and author of a new book about heartbreak.

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