Reflections on Reflecting

A few months ago, I mentioned being invited to participate in something and how rewarding it was to reflect on how my work has changed in the past few years. 

That project is now out in the world. Creative Nonfiction, the US-based magazine, asks writers on Twitter to tell a story, a "tiny truth," in a tweet with the hashtag #cnftweets. They include a few #cnftweets in print issues of their magazine and in their newsletters.

For their 76th issue (they've been at this "creative nonfiction" thing for a long time, folks), they  redesigned their magazine and did some reflection of their own on the genre as a whole. 

As part of that issue, they asked several writers who have been tweeting (often, and for a long time) with the #cnftweets hashtag to take a look back at how their work has changed over time.

You can see the entire feature here--on the free side of the issue's paywall. And because my last name starts with A, my reflection is at the top. (To see the tweets themselves, over time, you have to go to the page.)

Aside from the chance to commune with my many-years-ago self, this project was fun for other reasons. For one thing, I learned how to download all my tweets. Holy moly.

But I also appreciated being reminded of important writing lessons. Here are a few.

You don't have to write about something to write about it. I wrote the tweets from 2015 while my husband recuperated from heart surgery, a time of profound change for him (of course) but also for me and for us together. I don't talk about it directly until the third anniversary of his surgery, but it infused everything I wrote, in a way that may be visible only to me. 

It's good to have a reason for being anywhere, perhaps especially on social media. I've often threatened to quit Twitter and I've taken several breaks to preserve my mental health. However, when I choose to be there for reasons that AREN'T participating in public political discourse, I'm happier. And tweeting small observations about the world around me, as well as lifting up others' voices, is enough to keep me checking in. 

Revising is so much a part of storytelling. We were asked to choose seven or eight tweets to reflect on. I had many other tweets about my husband, birds, weather, learning and growth, etc., tweets that I remembered fondly (or frankly didn't recall at all but enjoyed seeing), but I had to choose. The largest percentage of them, obviously, didn't make that cut. Which is fine. Just something to keep in mind as I write and revise longer prose.

For decades, since working at two US national laboratories, I've "known" one thing for sure: I "don't write short." Photo captions, text for museums, pull quotes--just not the top of my skill set. But in looking back at my #cnftweets, I see that my "writing short" has improved. So: I can learn new things. And also: it can be hard to see the learning in real time--it's more evident after time has passed. 

So there you have it. It's so interesting to read the other writers' reflections and their tweets. I've "known" these people on Twitter for many years, of course, but seeing their work is more like meeting them in real life. 

I encourage you to read the online feature at Creative Nonfiction and perhaps give #cnftweets a try--they're an interesting way to challenge yourself.