Creative non-fiction, which includes personal essays and memoir, is a relatively new writing genre that is sweeping the writing world. In creative non-fiction, readers learn via a story narrative, rather than through the expository writing style that you might find in a textbook.

Personal essays and memoir are tethered to the facts of your life. During the process of writing creative non-fiction, you, the writer, learn a lot about yourself. You distill lessons you have learned from the classroom called everyday life. No wonder fragments from our journals provide us with the jumping-off point to write a creative non-fiction piece.

So, where to begin? How to write creative non-fiction using your journal? Here are a few ideas:

  • Find some of your old journals and browse through them. What entries stand out? What entries make your heart race, cause you to tremble, or stop you in your tracks and bring you back to a different time?
  • Based on your journal re-reading, make two or three lists of entries that are points of interest, or points of irritation, or points of passion, or points of confusion. These may be springboards for your writing.
  • Be open to possibilities. Sometimes what you think you are want to write about is not what you end up writing about. There may be hidden pathways that take you to unexpected areas.

For those of you who are new to creative non-fiction yet committed to exploring the process of writing creative non-fiction, it’s especially valuable to engage a guide who asks probing questions, helping you find your way, and lending support on your journey. Likewise, a small group of people who are also engaged in the process of writing creative non-fiction can help steer you in the right direction. Join one of our monthly Writing Alone Together circles to gain inspiration and support (IAJW Member Benefit.)