Lit Fest Member Dispatch: Turning into a Dandelion

By Kristin Pazulski

I’m a weed in this house of literary writers. As a journalist, my writing is driven by fact with a smidge of creativity. I rarely slave over the wording in a piece because my deadline (and editor) are looming. In journalism, speed is valued nearly as much as the quality—not to say the writing isn’t good, but the best version of a sentence is rarely sought.

[caption id="attachment_6175" align="alignright" width="130"]A common sense lesson in fiction transformed this weed of a writer. A common sense lesson in fiction transformed this weed of a writer.[/caption]

As a person of logic who gets paid for writing, it’s hard for me to write for fun and creativity. I used to, as a child, but I lost that part of me when I turned to newspapers and marketing. Deadlines and results rule my writing, rather than thoughtful creation.

Since starting at Lighthouse, I’ve wanted to dabble in the creative—but I didn’t know where to start. Poetry seemed too lofty a goal, fiction gave me trouble, and essays seemed too self-absorbed.

I thought, well, maybe I’m just a journalist.

I took Mario Acevedo’s class, Turning Real Life into Fiction, because I figured if any class could potentially bridge this gap, it would be this one.

In class, we went around the table sharing writing projects and focuses—everyone but me was already into the creative side. I felt a little out of my league. I don’t know how to write fiction, yet here I am in a fiction class. I think I blushed when my turn to share came.

But as the class went on, something did change. Not to be cliché, but there was a moment where the clouds parted and whoever’s up there shined the sun's beams down on my logical head and said: see, you can get this.

The problem was that I was overthinking it.

Creating fiction doesn't involve complete make-believe, but rather observation—something I had been doing for years as a journalist. What I learned in that class is you can extract pieces of your experience—details about an event, emotions from a tragedy, facial expression from an observation—and apply it to your characters, creating a fiction that isn't true to your real life, but is true to life.

During a writing exercise, I wrote a little piece that I can’t stop thinking about. The character is strongly based on a real person—my uncle. He did jump into his car one day, searching for someone, as my character did. He did bring a six-pack of beer with him (or so the family legends go). And he does have a family member with serious problems he is trying hard to solve. Everything in my little piece was true, but all elements were unrelated and had never collided with another in the real world. In that way, though all written about related to one man, it was fiction.

And when I read it, people reacted, laughed, and liked it.

I won’t claim to be one of the creatives—yet—but writing that story, with Mario’s guidance and the class’ support, I felt like my weed-ness was changing into a flower, or maybe more like a dandelion—still a weed, but on my way to something more beautiful.