I decided to paint the benches in my yard yesterday. The metal frames were solid, and the wood didn’t have any major cracks, but they definitely needed a new finish. I prepped the wood, and sanded off the old paint. I noticed that each of my 3 benches had weathered the winter differently, and the one that fared the worst was one I’d done a half-hearted job of spray painting last year, without sanding first. It took a lot of extra work to get that one in shape, but I was able to make it look attractive by painting it the same color of brown I’d used before.
One bench was a few years old, and I’d painted it gray last year. The paint was peeling, but the colors blended nicely for a weathered look. I think a coat of varnish will make it beautiful.
The third bench I bought last year. Even though the directions said I should put a clear coat of polyurethane on it, I hadn’t. A quick sanding removed the bits of color that had lasted through the winter, and I’ll put a couple of layers of stain on it to make it match the trim on the house.
So, you may be wondering how this relates to writing, or maybe you’ve already quit reading. The facts I’ve presented about painting my benches are true, and if you’re into boring you might have enjoyed it. But if you like stories, this nonfiction recounting of facts probably made you yawn.
Here’s the whole truth of what happened:
I was supposed to gather stuff to donate to a local charity, but as I was looking through the laundry room I noticed a can of brown paint. I couldn’t remember why I bought it, but decided it would look good on the old park bench where I sit and read. I hunted up some sand paper and headed outside to fix up my reading spot. On the way there I noticed that the new bench I bought last year was rotting away, so I sanded it down first. Might as well do all the sanding at once, I thought, and proceeded to spend an hour wrecking my hands with sandpaper. At least the benches looked better.
I made up my mind to do things right this year. I gathered up some supplies—paper towels, painting gloves, screw driver, paint, paintbrush, reading glasses, and telephone. Wondering where the wood conditioner was, I put everything down in the yard and sorted through stuff on the back porch. Realizing I was getting behind schedule and would be receiving an important business call in less than an hour, I grabbed my glasses, the paint and a screwdriver to open it, and ran down the hill to my hidey-hole.
It was a little can of paint, and I tried to spread it carefully, hoping I’d be able to stretch it out for a second coat tomorrow. Or maybe I’d repaint that hideous blue lighthouse sitting by the front porch.
As I bent over to get the inside of the seat boards, my hair fell in my eyes and I couldn’t see what I was doing. I brushed it aside with the hand that didn’t hold the paint brush, forgetting that it held the paint. I had to finish the bench by swiping the paint off the leaves on the ground, and then picking the crumbly stuff off with my fingers. (The label says it cleans up with soap and water, but it doesn’t say how many times you have to wash to get it off. More than twice, for sure.)
Before I got done, the phone rang and I ran as fast as I could up the hill to answer it. It quit ringing just as I found it in the grass, but my son yelled out the window that it was for me—the important business call. Having left my reading glasses somewhere, I squinted at the tiny numbers on the phone, looking for the Talk button, and smeared brown paint all over the receiver.
By this time I was pretty sick of painting, so I decided I’ll just slap a coat of varnish on the bench by the garage, and get some of that 2-in-1 stain/polyurethane for the other one. Benches are for sitting on, and anybody who doesn’t like the way they look can stand up.
There you have it: nonfiction and creative nonfiction. The same events, equally true, but with completely different tones.
Which is easier for you to write, regular nonfiction or creative nonfiction? Which do you prefer reading? Do you think regular nonfiction works better for certain types of material, or is it ok to use creative nonfiction for all types of nonfiction writing?