This is the kind of conversation I’ve been having with people lately–“I’m writing memoir, I think it’s memoir, but someone else called it Creative Nonfiction. But then I read about personal essays. I’m confused.”

Yes, indeed labels are confusing. In my research for my new book Truth or Lie, I found myself doing a lot of reading about Creative Nonfiction as I investigated these kinds of questions. So far what I’ve found out is this: they are all the same. And they are different.

As you can see, there is no one definition for these genres, but I did notice in some literary magazines, the personal stories that brought in the larger world beyond the author’s very private and personal story were called “Creative Nonfiction.” But other times–and yes, this is confusing, that same kind of writing was called memoir.

So what to do? I blogged about this at the National Association of Memoir Writers today as I was thinking about this Friday’s NAMW Free Telesummit on the subject of Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, and Personal Essay.

No matter what the labels, the first principle of personal writing is to WRITE! We need to not get tangled up in labels. If we are to shape something for publication, we need to have written it from our hearts, we need to put on the page the story we want to tell, the story that wants to be told. Then we can make decisions about how to get the work out into the world.

If you want to read more about that blog post, click the NAMW link. And be sure to sign up for the Telesummit. For 5 hours experts on the topic of personal writing will be talking with me about these interesting questions. You can download all the audios if you sign up and can’t be there.

In the meantime, start writing your next story!