There was a wonderful essay in the New Yorker this past week, written by Keith Ridgway. Ridgway is a Dublin-born writer and author of six books, including one collection of short stories. He begins the essay, “Everything is Fiction,” by saying, “I don’t know how to write.”
It’s a provocative statement coming from a writer and it resonated with me because I often feel like I have no idea what I’m doing when I’m writing. Granted, I haven’t published any of my work and Ridgway has, so must know something. But he says that when writing, his decisions are really compromises and when he submits his pieces to be read and critiqued by others, their comments feel unjust because they’re responding not to something he did, but to something that happened to him. And that’s exactly right. Stories get away from me all of the time. What I intend to write often never makes it onto the page. Where does it go? It starts in my head, travels down my arms to my fingers, anxiously awaiting the command to type and then, POOF!, it disappears only to be replaced by a rabbit or a lion in a cage.
But Ridgway does make some decisions, like how to get rid of writing that forced or fake. But essentially it’s a crap shoot and he’s making it up as it goes along, because everything in life is fiction, he says, — not just writing. How we see ourselves, how we define ourselves and others, the life we’re leading, the life we’ve lead. He writes:
You have a perception of the way things are, and you impose it on your memory, and in this way you think, in the same way that I think, that you are living something that is describable. When of course, what we actually live, what we actually experience—with our senses and our nerves—is a vast, absurd, beautiful, ridiculous chaos.
Embrace the fiction of all things.
Photo: Kevin Dooley / Flickr Creative Commons