Following a Nonfiction Path

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How do you pick what to write?

For years I was a journalist who wrote on a vast array of different subjects, that were, of course, entirely nonfiction pieces, usually assigned to me by my editor or publisher.

On the side, I wrote a few novels, and on the side of that, I wrote a few research papers and master’s thesis.

I’ve written a lot and I continue to write a lot, but as the years have passed, my nonfiction writing has fallen to the wayside (except for these blogs) and replaced by fiction writing.

I blame it, partly, on my reading habits.

I love reading. I read across the entire spectrum of fiction from literary to science fiction to romance. I don’t discriminate the subject or the genre, just the quality of writing. If it sucks me in, I read it. If it just sucks, I put it down without a twinge of guilt.

My nonfiction reading is much narrower. I read the occasional biography and autobiography. I do like a good physics book for laypeople. Oh, and philosophy and psychology to an extent. The subject matter is much more important here, though the writing comes in a close second of course. But if I am not interested in the subject, I’m not interested in the book.

The truth is, though, I read a lot more fiction than I read nonfiction, and the result of my lopsided reading list is that I’ve always assumed I should be a fiction writer rather than a nonfiction writer.

Firstly, because write what you love.

Secondly, though, is that nonfiction writers always seem to be college-degreed experts in the field they are writing about. They are PhDs in physics or math, or licensed psychologists or college teaching philosophers. I’ve always assumed that to write a nonfiction book is to be categorized as an expert by society. But then I started to stumble on some history books and biographies written, not by university mandated experts, but by people who are so interested (obsessed even) about their subject that they become experts.

And I started to think about this; mostly because I started to read different things about centurions (people who live to be 100 plus), and one of the few consistencies among the different centurion cultures is the fact that they fill their time with things that interest them.

Really, really interest them.

And I don’t mean careers. There is so much emphasis on this theory that if you find what you love and do it as a career, you will never work a day in your life. But this is so misleading because it assumes there is just one thing to love, resulting in individuals chasing one interest and when they get bored or are confronted with difficulty, they abandon the path for green fields,.

(Interestingly enough, I read recently that people who believe in a (singular) soulmate have a high relationship turnover rate because they refuse to believe that difficulty is a normal aspect of relationships, believing instead that any sign of struggle or dissonance means they are obviously not with The One. There are some rather interesting side effects physically and emotionally from this… but another blog post)

Anyway.

A lost of us wish we were Oprah and absolutely believe that there is a Purpose to our existence but in creating this kind of underlying social philosophy, we have immersed ourselves into deeper unhappiness.

The internal litany starts to sound like this: What is wrong with us that we can’t find this Purpose?

Because obviously there must be something wrong with us, rather than something wrong with the belief.

I am, obviously, not a fan.

But, like with all things, if the belief helps you grow, then keep it, if it creates unhappiness then let it go.

I digress.

Back to the subject on hand. What I’m talking about is finding things that interest you, us, me, and then taking that information and writing about it. Proper like. With real nonfiction book-length research. I mean, as long as I adhere to the research maxims, I don’t see why I shouldn’t delve into those areas.

But should I? And that is where I am at today. I have years of experience writing novels. I have written six as of the last count and though I do have nonfiction writing chops, not to the same degree.

And.

What should I write about, because I don’t even know what subject I am that interested in. Though the idea of creating a list of potential interests is very, very appealing… so, I guess I have already identified my starting point.

And that is where I am today. Contemplating a road less traveled, at least for me.

What about you, dear readers and writers? Do you focus on one or two things to read/write about, or do you run the gambit? What is your preferred reading genre, and does it mirror what you write?

Share!

Until next time, happy thoughts and sunny days.

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