Creative Nonfiction

The Search for a Story

It became important for me to write a story about my life, a true story, so I sat down to write and immediately began to fret. What would it be? I wondered. Not, I repeat, NOT another travel story for God’s sake. I’ve nearly exhausted those. But then I said to myself, You haven’t used all of your travel stories in nonfiction. Maybe in fiction, but not nonfiction. Either way, no travel stories. Okay, I said to myself, I can deal with that, so what about all the weird places you’ve lived, or places you’ve spent extended periods of time but not quite lived? How might one of those episodes figure into a story? Like that time you stayed in a trailer park in San Antonio for two months, worked twelve hours a day in a shopping mall, were allowed only two days off out of sixty. On your first day off, Thanksgiving, you and your wife at the time dined at Denny’s and it was awful. Isn’t that worth telling? Well, not really. That’s the extent of the story, already told. Then I said to myself, But Joan Didion could make it interesting. Hell, she could make a potato chip interesting. But then I reminded myself that I was absolutely not Joan Didion. Nobody is Joan Didion. But surely we must dream, I said to myself. Then I fretted some more.

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