Why taking time in your day to read anything is essential, why writing is important, and why I’m already regretting writing this at all.
Already, I’m thinking this topic is too large, too profound, too IMMENSE for me to condense into one little article. But still, I’m impassioned to put out there why I thing everyone should write something, and why taking time in your day to read anything at all makes a real difference to understanding yourself, others, and the world.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of talented authors who’ve written books and books on this subject. Scholars have dedicated their careers to the ins and outs of literary theory and the psychological interplay between the act of putting pen to paper and self-understanding. It’s a topic I’ve written about before for various UK magazines and journals, and it’s one that I wanted to explore here a bit too.
And for the record, though I’m a desperate book collector (see my new soap, below!), I’m not being precious about print books. However you like to read – books, eBooks, apps… It doesn’t matter. All have value, and all have a place in this wonderful wordy world.
Why Do We Write?
To many people, writing is something we do unconsciously – a skill that allows us to make lists, work through the office email mountain, and fill in those blank birthday cards. The idea of writing creatively can seem time-consuming, pointless, or maybe even induces a fear of failure. Why write something that might be mocked? Why pour ourselves into something that might never be appreciated?
But there’s plenty more to writing than commercial achievement. Only writing for literary success is driven by this world of pressure we live in, whereby we always feel the need to succeed. In the past, writing was often a simpler pleasure, and most people would write to entertain family, friends, or to pass down knowledge from generation to generation. Think about the act of keeping a diary – the sharing of secrets between pen and page. It’s only for you – no-one else. Shaping our lives into stories with a narrative that makes sense, breaking our days and hours into digestible chapters.
Stories are People
And when we read, we get to experience lives from the inside out. Imagine a library.
Each book is a single voice, talking to you. And we’re not even talking about the ‘extrovert voice’ we temper and modify for other people. These are the innermost, most authentic thoughts of human beings around the world who might no longer even be alive. In fact, they might have died hundreds of years earlier, and yet you’re still hearing their voice exactly as they wanted to, all those years ago. As you read, you hear the same words in your head that the author did, and in fact that thousands (if not millions) of other readers have heard in their heads too. How’s that for a common unifier?
Books are secrets. Sometimes, it’s easier to speak through a pen’s nib than with your own tongue. Give it a try.
Stories are Understanding
Whether you’re reading an ancient manuscript or BBC News, the stories you read help you to understand a world beyond yourself. It’s this simultaneous process of pulling you out of introspection whilst transferring what you see into your mind’s eye.
Stories stay with us. Stories can shape how we see the world, and how we see other people. Stories can inspire us to make a change in our lives, to be better people, to pursue new hobbies, to travel. And when we write, we’re starting this journey anew for other people. One of the reasons why I’ve always wanted to tell stories is so that I can make people feel things, move them. It’s that emotional swoooooooop I’ve felt so many times when reading or watching a film that I wanted to capture, investigate, and release back into the wild. Stories are cures, remedies, and comfort.
Stories are History
If stories are voices, they’re also memories. And if stories are memories, they’re history. But this is a special kind of history. On one hand, stories are primary sources, and on the other hand – what is history but the voices of the people who spoke the loudest?
Though this is problematic in terms of understanding what’s happened, it’s also absolutely fascinating. One of the main topics I explore in my fiction and poetry is ‘truth’. When it comes to people, truth is as murky and three dimensional as history. Imagine that you’re diving in a deep lagoon. There’s life going on all around you – slowly churning waters, tiny insects, weeds, little fish darting about. But you can only see as far as your arms will reach in the dark, the space closest to you, and even then you’re preoccupied with your role within the lagoon. Why am I here? How did I get here? How will I get out? Am I about to drown? Truth and history are tainted with the shade of the storyteller. So as a tool to understand human nature, we can hardly get closer to the truth than we do in stories.
Sigh. You see, I’ve written a whole blog and hardly even scratched the surface. You could write volumes on this, and maybe one day I will. As I near the end of my novel-writing process, I think I’ve just been feeling the love for stories. It’s a simple love, and it’s a complicated world – so simple loves must be indulged when we can.
I’ve got some exciting news to share in the next month, too. Bookish, wordy updates – and a few of them at that! I’m not actually allowed to announce any of it yet, so I’ll whet your whistle with a riddle – what do marionettes, earthquakes, and world-changing research have in common?
Find out in my next posts! In the meantime, explore my published poems and stories to get your fiction fix.