Pondering Nonfiction and the Advice of a Tibetan Monk

Lately I’ve been reading books by Jon Ronson (“Them”) and James Altucher (“Choose Yourself”). These books are nonfiction, and have been giving me ideas of writing longer pieces than these blog posts about subjects less focused on my struggle to produce fiction.

These two authors are inspiring to me because of their mix of stories and a kind of directed thinking that is supported by the stories they tell. I am happy with writing fiction, but perhaps I want to branch out.

Back in college I took a wonderful class about writing nonfiction, but I haven’t considered doing it again for the past few years.

That reminds me of a story, the one alluded to in the title of this post.

When traveling to India in January 2011 for a class on Buddhism, I spent about a week in a little town in the mountains called Dharamsala. This is the town where the the Dalai Lama lives and keeps his temple. It is a town of refugee monks. A fascinating place, and one of the few locations I really want to return to someday that isn’t my home.

While in Dharamasala my professor connected the group with a number of fascinating people, including the (Now former) Prime Minister of Tibet, and the then-Keeper of Tibetan Archives. Both of those two are monks, complete with the robes and dignified demeanors. This story is about the archivist, who used to be a translator for the Dalai Lama.

He talked to us about, if I recall correctly, the education system in the community. Our little class was then able to ask questions. Because I was considering the teachings about breaking through illusions in Buddhism, and because I was already a fantasy writer, I asked this wise and astute old monk about the value of genre fiction.

I remember him thinking for a moment before he slapped me down.

“You should write nonfiction,” he said.

I’ve felt a bit rebellious toward this advice for the intervening years. However, today, I think I may he able to mix this in with my fantasy and illusion.

It’s funny, my mother has wanted me to write about Asperger’s Syndrome and my experiences in alternative school for even longer, and I never wanted to do that until the past few weeks.

We will see if anything comes of this, but I think I’ll enjoy experimenting while I edit some fiction.

Thanks for reading.


3 thoughts on “Pondering Nonfiction and the Advice of a Tibetan Monk

  1. I wrote non fiction most of the summer. I’m finding that describing concrete places is now helping with my descriptions. I just started a new fantasy story, so we shall see. I’ve always been shaky on description , so that break may have helped a lot.

    • That is an interesting thought. Concrete description has challenged me in the past as well, so I wonder if I’ll see a difference in my fiction once I get into this stuff.

      • I started for a different reason, but that was one of the best take aways from the experience as a writer. I did it because I had things to deal with and didn’t want that layer of distance while I wrote about them. Maybe it’s what I needed all along, to pull the distance out of my writing.

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