Why write? On writing, saving lives and the world

I love to write. But, I do not expect my writing will change the world or save lives. My dearest friend is a doctor. While I can’t say for sure that she saves lives every day, she probably saves more lives in a week than I will ever save my entire life long. Sometimes, this can be a bit intimidating. You think, wow, and start throwing around words like important, significant, and heroic. It can make what I do seem pretty insignificant.

I only write about heroes. I am truly significant in the world I create, where I am ruler, creator, the fates and gods combined. In real life, I’m a story-teller. What is the import of being a story teller?To me, story tellers are those who record what was, imagine what will be, and sometimes let us escape from what is.

Oh sure, I know there are those out there who think we have it made, being able to stay home, wear pajamas to work, set our own hours and work schedule. And there is some truth in this: we are pretty darned lucky. We’re also lucky because we have the ability to imagine and see a world that’s sometimes different from the one we live in, one where newspapers report disasters, murders, financial ruin. I write romance, where the happy ending reigns supreme, and I like it this way. Sure, I like to torture my characters and they have difficulties, but it’s always knowing in the end, everything works out fine: the mystery is solved, true love is attained, the bad guys lose. While some might argue this is part of what divides us further from reality, I think it makes reality better. After all, if you can’t ever imagine a better reality, how could you hope to work for one? Sometimes, perhaps, we can even dream for those who aren’t as good at it.

Not that writing is as easy as dreaming and using your imagination, of course. Can’t let those folks who plan to take up the “hobby” and maybe write a novel in their spare time from whatever they really do think it really is so simple. Because often, it’s not. No, we’re not fighting for people’s lives – not real ones at any rate – but we’re fighting for increasingly limited attention spans, trying to weave together something original, interesting, something that tugs at emotions, and breathe life into dimensional people who exist nowhere other than our heads and the written page. Then of course there’s the discipline involved to keep at it, to go through rewrites and edits when the first draft is finally done, and then to start all over again.

Whenever I get too whiny about this process, I think again of my doctor-friend, of stanching blood, performing surgery, lots of other things I can’t do (nor in all honesty have any desire for – too squeamish). I’m just writing words. I’m sharing a story.

And there’s the heart of it: we’re creating a story. Connecting, perhaps, to a larger narrative constructed of all stories, all myth, all imagined worlds. Stories are how we understand the world, how humans explain it, and how we understand and continue to build it. In some ways, I like to think of stories as a way we’re connecting and creating both a picture of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re headed. Religious stories are stories, and they certainly change the world. Genre fiction especially has a tendency to reflect changing values and beliefs sometimes even before these are accurately echoed in society at large, like the position and power of women in romance novels. Today we write strong, powerful females, some who can and do change the world, where once this would have been unimaginable. Does what we write, the stories we tell, help to shape and form reality, or simply reflect it?

Both, perhaps, or neither. And while it’s interesting to think of it this way, I still don’t think my writing is saving the world, changing or saving lives. Which in the broader spectrum of things, does perhaps make me less significant or important than my life-saving friend.

Unlike my best friend, I will not change the world or save lives. But I may be able to cheer someone up, or take them somewhere else for a little while. Best of all, maybe real-life heroes like my friend can find a break and escape from the occasional harshness of reality to my books. That, a chuckle and a smile, a warm and happy feeling, these are what I give the world as a storyteller, and I’m good with it. If I happen to inspire a change in reality and the dreams I sow become the future, hey, that’s pretty cool, but as a storyteller, I can’t let it interfere with the story.

Why do you write? Do you think stories can change the world? Please, share your thoughts on comments on writing, and saving the world.

One thought on “Why write? On writing, saving lives and the world”

  1. Don’t sell yourself short! Instead of changing the world and saving lives, think just how many lives you change and how ultimately our world is saved.

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