Notes Towards a New Fairytale – Patrick Doerksen

When I was fourteen, my mother sent me off for the summer to my Opa’s farm. The idea was to get out of Canada, see a little bit of the world, and learn a bit of German while my brain was yet plastic. “Just think what a head start you’ll have on your language requirement,” she said, for it had been decided in her mind that I would get a PhD. “It may take you…

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A question for Patrick Doerksen

Q: What made you start writing?

A: One of the first fictions I wrote was on the back of a church bulletin when I was around ten, because it was more fun that listening to the sermon. So: boredom, first of all.

But though it’s true enough, I’m not content with that answer. Looking back, I can see a motive just as important, if less obvious: the urge to communicate what I felt could not, for whatever reason, be contained in face-to-face conversations.

When you look at fiction in the context of human communication in general—gestures, speech, image-making, writing—you can see right away that it gives you something none of the others give. In conversation, you get an idea of the opinions of another person. With fiction, you get an idea of what it is like to be another person. Fiction communicates experience directly through the process of character-reader identification.

Why should we want this? I don’t know. When we have an interesting idea, we want to share it. When it’s experience, or the qualia of an experience, or the way a bunch of experiences are strung together, why shouldn’t we want to share that too? And all the more sense it makes to crave sharing what it is like to be ourselves—what it’s like for me to be me, or for you to be you.

So I guess I started writing because I wanted that, and fiction was the most practical way of going about it. I suspect that a lot of writers are people who are dissatisfied with their ability to communicate and so turn to a medium that allows revision, demands sustained attention, and can be ignored but not interrupted. I think a person senses all that when they begin writing, and it’s exciting. No one is telling you the rules. It’s just you and the words, and you can take as much time as you need to figure out how to say what you want to say.


Patrick Doerksen’s story “Notes Towards a New Fairytale” was published on Friday, 3 November 2017.
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