For those who don’t know me well, I am not a religious person. I don’t hold claim to any one belief system or ideology, nor do I reject any. I hold a high level of respect for everyone’s individual beliefs or lack thereof. It’s not my intent to prove or disprove, rather, it is to learn facts, listen to stories, and understand our world as it exists today. This level of comprehension includes the natural world and human societies and cultures, for which many are built around belief systems and have significantly impacted on the natural world – good or bad. I am also a strong advocate of the sciences.
In needs to be stated with regard to our current polarized climate of religion versus science, that science does not exist to debunk or counter religion. Nor is science a belief system. It is a methodology applied to the pursuit of facts in how things function in our world. It is the exploration of our intelligent minds, the ocean depths, and the minuscule building blocks of the trillions of atoms that make up each of our bodies.
My views on religion – of any faith – are straight-forward, if not over-simplified. When the supernatural elements are removed they provide frameworks that help some people live their lives, to cope with difficult situations, to provide a community of like-minded people, to serve the less fortunate in times of need. In this high-stress, fast-paced digital era of individual isolation – think of how often people are outdoors talking with neighbors as compared to the pre-Internet days of twenty-plus years ago – religious organizations hold an invaluable role in fulfilling a need to belong to a group and provide a purpose in life. I acknowledge that not everyone seeks these fulfillments, or maybe not in a faith-based setting.
So here I am, embarking on what is the most challenging journey yet in my professional creative life. Without giving much detail away at this early stage, I have committed to writing a biography following the lives of two sisters, where religion and gender identity are major factors in their life stories. Funny enough, the challenge for me is not in taking on the subject of gender identity, it’s learning in close proximity about the high value and trust in a faith that is rather foreign to me, one that I may not agree with at times.
Through this writing exercise I have finally reached a point of clarity consistent with my views: a story about another’s beliefs is not reflective of my own.
This is a cool travel writing book. Nonfiction for those who might wonder. Fascinating stories almost lost to history about the people commemorated in various cemeteries around the world. And stories about how these places came to be.
I know Goodreads is controversial these days, but I’ve been an author there for years — and the last giveaway I did through them was really fun. Hopefully, this one will be, too.
You should be able to click on through their widget above and enter to win your very own copy of my book of cemetery essays.
I tried something new recently. It was risky – well, not really risky, let’s say daring – I applied my fiction voice to my nonfiction work.
Over the years, as I have developed my business writing prowess, I always felt there were certain molds I needed to fit in to and expectations to meet. Often times I found myself writing in a stilted, unnatural voice, like I was listening to myself on the other side of a two-story brick and mortar wall. It never sat right with me. It felt like a chore. I would spend countless collective hours revising and refining, restructuring and reworking – as I am sure any writer has had the good fortune of dealing with – to sound reasonably good. And the good was good, sometimes a little better than good, sometimes it was dry, business-like, professional, regimented, bland and craving a makeover of charisma and soul. Sometimes I hated the venomous amorphous beast that slowly gnawed at my psyche little bits at a time. It made me crazy; my mental wellness was not quite at stake, but crazy nonetheless. But I did what needed to be done, I stuck to my due diligence.
Now don’t get me wrong, I wrote well, when I was into it. And if not well, well enough for the sake of well enough. I wrote news articles and business information for the corporate intranet, website content, ad copy, various employee communications, a few press releases, a speech or two … whatever a Corporate Communicator would write on a regular basis. It did the job, it communicated clearly and efficiently, and I fulfilled my obligation. Nevertheless, it felt distant to me – like another shallow faceless automaton wrote it. I was starved to fight my way out of this monotony.
Since last August, I have been writing a short fiction piece for my MFA writing workshop course. You could say it is a psychological thriller among other things. During the process, I found myself seeing the story and interpreting it into the written language in a novel way. My writing voice, to my surprise, had evolved to a new level. Though it is hard to pinpoint the catalyst, I fell in love with the writing process all over again (I had to throw in one more cliché, really).
Then it hit me in a subconscious sense – because I did not actually speak or think these words – why not use this evolving fiction style, this new voice, in my nonfiction? I tried it out on a few small pieces. I found myself perceiving what I was writing in a new light with a different thought process. I introduced elements of this evolving voice to a recent book review … and it blew my mind. Reading the work back to myself aloud, I could not believe the barrier I had leapt over. The style was so fluid, so easy to follow, so full of humanity and personality. It was, and still is, an incredible feeling. My true nonfiction voice has emerged from the dark depths of white offices with beige carpets!