Tackling Nonfiction: Discovering Narrative Medicine

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I’ve shifted to writing nonfiction lately with the hopes of creating a memoir but it hasn’t been the same process as writing fiction. With fiction there is a freedom of imagination, of creating from scratch that doesnt work the same way with nonfiction. I recently read that in order to tell if your story is a novel or a memoir you must ask yourself: Did change come from change of circumstance or from within? This didn’t help much since it was both for me…I know that a memorable voice is most important in memoir and in writing nonfiction, I need to find the hidden patterns in my memories.

I’ve kept a journal consistently since elementary school, but it wasn’t till attending graduate school for creative writing that I finally opened myself up to the possibility of writing longer works of nonfiction.

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I am currently working on a collection of various non-fiction essays, ranging in topic from my study abroad experience in Egypt, memories of my grandmother, my first year in the United States, and my shifting relationship with the city of Providence.  I hope to have most- if not all- of these essays completed and out into the world by the fall.. but the more important part has been sitting down and writing out these long-held thoughts and memories.

Writing in general is a long, arduous process nevermind writing nonfiction… the act of processing memories in a way that promotes a coherent story is even harder, but very necessary.  As I am sure folks have heard before, writing is an addiction…  If I am not writing, I pretty much lose my shit…!

Writing is how I make sense of my world, process my emotions and experience order in an otherwise scrambled day. This year, I was introduced to the concept of Narrative Medicine and after looking more into it, fell in love with the concept.  Originally designed for medical students as a way to sort through their experiences as well better support their patients, it has grown to be an organized program of study at medical schools such as Columbia in New York City.

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Narrative Medicine aims not only to validate the experience of the patient, but also to encourage creativity and self-reflection in the physician.  Sort of serving as healing the healer…

“Our approach begins with the exploration of observational skills. We believe that there is an extraordinary language within the visual world that is often perceived unconsciously; when properly understood, this language can potentially offer new depths of information about and access to the clinical experience.”

Narrative medicine is the encompassing of our awareness of health and disease into a storied structure. We embed the illness into the life story of the person in such a way that we discover meaning and purpose in both the illness and the experience of recovery.  It’s hard, sometimes, to give a simple definition, but in a diagnostic sense, the label of “sickness” becomes secondary to the life of the person who has a particular sickness. In order for a person to get well, there has to be a story, one that everyone believes, that leads the individual back to health.”

After reading that I though about why I write- certainly, to realign or lead me back to emotional health.  What a great reminder to keep grinding and just keep….writing!

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Read more about narrative medicine here : http://www.utne.com/mind-and-body/narrative-medicine-heals-bodies-and-souls.aspx#ixzz32p8bppGW

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