Writing non-fiction isn’t easy. Like any craft, it’s never short of challenges. But with non-fiction writing, there’s constantly the challenge to actually keep doing it and achieve something with it.
After so many years as a non-fiction writer, I’m now a published author of a non-fiction book. No, it’s not my first book which I’ve been working on for a while. Recently I published a chapter in a compilation self-help book (more on this at the end of the post). The timing of it comes on the back of my fifth year as a non-fiction, multicultural blogger.
Non-fiction writing involves telling stories about the real world, telling true stories. The narratives provide commentary on everyday events, the everyday experiences we see, feel and go through. Sharing and educating others on the finesses of the world, to enlighten about reality, is what many non-fiction writers aim to do.
There are different types of non-fiction text like newspapers, biographies, academic journals, travel guides and more. Speak of non-fiction writing, speak of presenting facts and reflective opinions – which is always easier said than done.
It’s challenging and daunting putting our personal opinion out there as a non-fiction writer. Not everyone shares the same view and our opinion can rub someone else the wrong way, igniting fiery discussions and insults. Not everyone will agree and be convinced by what we write and we may come to question why we write non-fiction.
Through writing about multiculturalism, racism and stereotypes, I hope to motivate others to see the beautiful that is difference. Everyone has their own unwavering opinion on these sensitive topics, and every opinion has the right to be heard. While I make my stance clear in each blog post, I also like to write about different sides of the topic and welcome opposing comments – to respect different opinions, to learn from you. Funnily enough, present both sides of a story and we may be lambasted a hypocrite (this thread on Reddit claims I am two-faced because of a certain post I wrote). But we can’t please everyone.
Some see non-fiction writing as dry and boring, inundated with mindless facts that they do not need to know. As a non-fiction writer, there’s the challenge to convince with our argument, to break down mind-boggling facts and what we believe in into something that’ll strike a chord with others. Arguably this is called dumbing down ideas, but we all have different levels of understanding, and more importantly, perception is subjective. As one of my university lecturer’s once said:
“It’s how you argue that makes a good piece of writing.”
Non-fiction writing takes time, and even more time if we feel we don’t have enough material to work with. And don’t know what to write about. We can’t make up reality. Putting across a strong, original opinion takes research: reading up on history, keeping up to date with the latest facts and what like-minded others have said. It takes me about two nights after work to plan each blog post, then another two nights online researching and comparing other opinions with my own thoughts and conclude what I truly believe in. Then it takes about a week and a half – maybe more – to draft, redraft and upload a post.
Responding to comments and reading blogs take up more time than I like. I could do this all day; I love it and it makes my creativity tick. Many nights after work all I do is read and comment on blogs, and respond to comments on my blog. As much as I want to comment on each of the many blogs I follow, it’s impossible…and I have to remind myself of that. Also, my full-time job is ever so engaging and I have no intentions of giving it up soon to make more time for writing.
And so it can be isolating being a non-fiction writer: there’s a need to be alone with our thoughts about the world so we can collect them and piece them together to tell stories. There’s a need to believe in our own thoughts and stories no matter how crazy others think we are. As an introvert, I’m perfectly okay with this.
On that note of being alone, my multicultural blog isn’t a typical blog. It’s not a travel blog, or an expat blog, food blog, art blog and so on. Out of the ordinary non-fiction writing can work against you: unfamiliar tales of the real world often tell the harshest realities that we would rather not hear about. To everyone that has stopped by this multicultural blog, thank you.
Arguably it’s harder to make a name for ourselves or at least get noticed with non-fiction compared to fiction. With fiction, one can make up pretty much any character and storyline and it wouldn’t come across as wrong – anything goes with the imaginary. With non-fiction, there are similar voices out there. There’s only so much we can say about a certain topic and we risk being repetitive. Countless consumers welcome predictability as predictability is often relatable, comforting. But if we’re a non-fiction writer who wants to push boundaries and be a bit left of centre, it begs the question: do we write for ourselves, or do we write for others?
As someone who loves writing, it would be nice to make a living off just by writing. But it’s not the end of the world if I don’t. That moment when we reach our dreams, it’s an exhilarating feeling. But this feeling fades into memories and it’s the journey that makes a person, and this is what truly stays with us. Being popular has never been my end goal. Selling enough books to live comfortably has never been my end goal. What I write and blog about is what I want and what I honestly think – what others think they can think because it’s them and not me. If I connect with one person through my writing, that is my job done as a writer.
Like many forms of art, the hardest part about writing is actually writing and more writing, actually going at it again and again. There are times when we’ll feel stuck or question our craft or wonder why we’re spending so much time on it – and what we want to get out of it if making it big isn’t our intention. Most days I feel stuck and feel lazy, and I tell myself there is tomorrow to write – procrastination alright, but there’s no forcing love and passion.
If it’s something that we really want to do, we’ll love it enough to let it go. After all, we have to stand up to live before we can sit down and do what we love. Standing up to live, it’s when we learn who we are, find what we believe in and ultimately find our voice.
* * *
In the second half of last year, Yvette Prior over at Prior House Blog very kindly invited me to write a story about perseverance for the collaborative self-help book Lady by the River.
At that time, something about the invitation felt so right. The year had been frustratingly challenging on many fronts and I wasn’t motivated at all writing my first book on being Asian Australian. On a whim and as a distraction, I said yes. For a couple of months, I immersed myself drafting a piece for this project, a piece titled ‘Confidence To Chase My Passion’. For another couple of months, I worked back and forth with Dr Prior fine tuning it, back and forth, and back and forth yet again. Massive credit and thank you to Dr Prior for being so patient with 8 authors who make up this book.
It’s liberating to be an individual out on your own. But it’s grounding and special to be a part of something more than each of ourselves. For the eight of us, we dared to face the dark in the darkness towards the dawn, found the light when we learnt to connect and love each other and ourselves. That’s the basis of our stories: what it means to push on, move forward and touch that glimmer of light in the most testing of times.
It took a while but now we’re all here with a beautiful book.
The book was an idea. It is ours. Now it is the world’s. For each and everyone. For you.
What do you find challenging about (non-fiction) writing and/or blogging?