Non-fiction: The Pull of Ideas in the Real World

This time last year, I’d thought I would work on my very first effort at fiction. I pretty easily cranked out 20k works for NaNoWriMo in November, and with the coming of the dark months of winter, expected to dig into the story. I didn’t.

I came back to it again this year, and was momentarily excited about creating events and places and characters.

But the world as it is seems too interesting a place, and also too needy a place, to give it more make-believe than it already has, labeled as such or otherwise.

I’m far more motivated to delve into the present realities that can make a difference, knowing it is mostly in my own thinking that change might come. I suffer no illusions that this blog serves that purpose, but since it has become my Journal of Stuff That Interests Me, you’re likely to see the topics that hold my curiosity, momentarily at the top of a growing list, when you happen past Fragments.

And so I have a growing portfolio of read-later pieces, of aggregated topical catch-alls and early drafts where writing it out helps me see what I think and might discover about a topic for which reading is only chewing up the morsel and not the digesting of it.

In this, I’ve had moments of being overwhelmed and feeling far too broadly scattered to be effective at getting to the end of any of them. On the other hand, as this collection of ideas grows, I’m remembering how decades ago it used to be when I’d have five or six books going at the same time.

Inevitably, there would arise the most wonderful synergies between seemingly disparate topics. An underlined paragraph in a book on theology or philosophy would mesh perfectly with a new concept just read in a book on appropriate technology or small-scale gardening. The AHA! moments were everywhere!

So that’s where I am just now–caught in mid-stream straddling the backs of a half-dozen horses, waiting to see which one pulls the strongest and seems to have the best sense of how to get to the other side. I have no sense of control. I’m just along for the ride.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I agree!

    I prefer non-fiction, too. There are so many opportunities to delve into fiction these days that it’s nice to pull in the other direction whenever you have an opportunity.

    Although, there’s something to the argument that, as soon as you write it down, it becomes fiction. Because language isn’t flexible enough to convey what was really going on in your head, especially when you have no idea of the reader’s pre-conceptions and how they will receive and interpret it.

    Still, the admirable thing about non-fiction to me is that you at least intended to tell the truth.

  2. The half dozen horses metaphor is really good. I too am pleased that you are going to use your passion for the world and its issues to write non-fiction. Your knowledge and ideas are deep and broad. They are a gift to share.