I’ve been struggling to write more since I left grad school over 2 years ago. It often feels like a constant, drudging attempt, always nagging at the back of my mind but never really becoming much because of a lot of fear and a lack of discipline. I think about half the battle is getting over the fear that you’ll have nothing to write about. To address that, I picked up Tell It Slant from the library about two months ago. I’ve read to many “creative nonfiction guide books” to really think I’d learn anything new from this book, but I wanted something that would tell me what to write about so I had one less reason to cop out when I sat down. And that’s what I got.
The structure of this book makes logical sense. Three parts break down writing into topic, structure, and skills, and chapters center on the specifics of those parts. Seems sensible enough. I the problem I’ve had is that, as I’ve worked through the first few chapters (on memory, family, and place, respectively), I’ve felt trapped by the topic. The prompts are pretty rigid, telling you not only what topic to concentrate on but also what to think about and what to aim towards. I can see how this would be useful to someone just getting comfortable with creative writing, and with creative nonfiction in particular. But I felt so bored with everything I was writing from those prompts. Nothing felt natural or inspired. Like I was writing themes in grade school on topics assigned by the teacher.
I don’t want to be too harsh. The actual chapters themselves are well-written and it’s definitely a good, instructive book. I can even see me going back to it later on, when I’m feeling more grounded in my own writing and can approach it as more of a book of ideas and inspiration and less as a guide. Really, I’d recommend it to anyone who was in that situation or a less experienced writer who was looking to learn more about creative nonfiction. I’m just kind of in an in-between place right now, so it’s not for me.