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Why I Write Fiction

An essay from the book:

Torrents of Our Time, 2nd Edition

 Montreal Publishing Company

November 2023 

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How do we use this space—this time, you and I, best? What do we have to say? Because that’s what it is, isn’t it? Like a train on a track in a needle—running. Time. Understanding. This place and love. We all have this and we all want this.

For the longest time I couldn’t write directly about mental health. I still can’t, not really, not comfortably, and most certainly, not particularly well. Not as someone who suffers from it, but as someone who lived and loved next to it.

And so I found fiction. Or more accurately, fiction found me. And that was enough, more than enough, because I didn’t really want it there all the time, either. It was like that train on a track—there it is again, running.

Realism as writing, a retelling, is far too often a false witness. It’s filtered and constrained, our need for context and perspective far too great. Wanting. Needing. It’s not me. It’s you. And yet, with the passing of time, with hindsight and contextual perspective, the details drift.

“Memory is a poet, not a historian.” Marie Howe.

Fiction is truth. Or rather, as Albert Camus said, “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” Remembered realism? Little more than a dream. For how can we trust the mirror from which we retell our stories?

Both can be powerful.

Both can be painful.

But what is honest?

With nonfiction, we are trapped within our points of view, our objectivity never always being just that. Our retelling, always never more than what we know, or think we know—a weakness in the heart of everyone’s truth.

With fiction, we sidestep these pitfalls of the rational mind, allowing for the insights of our intuitive thinking, our hands guided by the enlightenment of our trust. Freed from the captivity of the mighty “I,” we are capable of reaching far beyond that which can only be discovered through our constrained selves. A place where an unfiltered truth can come. It just might not be the truth we thought we knew, or wanted to know.

I am a witness, and I am a participant, and yet, life is so much more than that too. It has to be. And it’s this separation I find difficult, the blurred lines of our lives and the unraveling of them.

How do we objectively separate ourselves from this?

From love?

From pain?

How do we write best about that which can’t be known?

Fiction allows for this, it craves it, on its way to greater truths. Nonfiction rejects it.

“The need of reason is not inspired by the quest for truth but by the quest for meaning. And truth and meaning are not the same thing. The basic fallacy, taking precedence over all specific metaphysical fallacies, is to interpret meaning on the model of truth.” Hannah Arendt.

And so I write fiction, to try and escape the condensed thinking of the modern mind, the endless need for defining, for meaning, this understanding of “self.” Because I don’t need that—I reject it, surrendering to the idea it’s just not knowable, in any trustworthy manner.

With fiction, I am able to try and seek, by removing myself as much as possible, an unbiased, unintentional truth, no matter what that truth might be.

“I think life would be pretty boring if we understood everything. It's better if we don't understand anything . . . and know that we don't, that's the important part.” Noam Chomsky.

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Available June 1, 2024

Montreal Publishing Company

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