I know you’re all used to my humor and wit, and I try to keep things light here on the Edge, but occasionally, I have deep thoughts. Sometimes I even feel…ick…emotional, like when I hear people say things like “It’s just a book.”
And I’m all,
Okay, so some people don’t like reading. They don’t get why anyone would want to have to think in order to become lost in a make-believe world full of imagined people and creatures. I mean, what purpose could that possibly serve? Where’s the payoff? What can you possibly take from it that would improve you as a person?
I’ve been asked why I waste time writing fiction. Surely the effort involved would be better spent on something more meaningful than a book. What—like knitting? Pfft.
Maybe you don’t read books. Maybe you think if the book is good enough, they’ll make it into a movie. (We all know there’s a flaw in his thinking, don’t we.) Entertainment shouldn’t require any effort from you, and books force you to think. So you pass. But I’ve noticed a lot of the folks passing on books enjoy television and movies immensely. In the end, you are willing to “waste time” on a fictional world as long as it’s laid out for you so you can reap the benefits without utilizing any of your precious brain cells.
Hey, I’m not judging you. Fiction comes in many forms. It’s not that non-readers don’t enjoy fiction. They need it as much as the bookworms do. It’s not the reading that’s important. It’s the story. Non-readers want to experience a fantastic story, but without the work. That’s okay. Fiction is important not because of how it’s received, but for what it contains. Just as it’s wrong to judge someone for waiting for the book to be made into a movie, it’s kind of assholey to say that writing or reading fiction is a waste of time. At some point a film is nothing more than words on paper (or a screen). These words are then transformed into a movie by actors and directors and such. The fiction is still there. The story is still necessary. We. Need. Fiction.
“Wait—what?” you might say. “We don’t need fiction.”
Oh, but we do. Humans need the escape fiction provides, because it shifts the focus from the crappiness that sometimes overtakes our lives. It helps us remove ourselves, for at least a short time, from stressful situations. Fiction also serves as a window into ourselves, a way of finding out those things we can’t discover on our own. When we open our minds enough to take a journey with the author into a fantasy world, we open ourselves to a new personal perspective as well. We experience life from a point of view that is not our own and this helps us understand the emotions and actions of others.
But more important is the validation fiction provides. Everyone needs to feel good about themselves and we need to feel like someone gets us now and then. Ever read a book where the author seems to crawl right inside your head? No? You’re reading the wrong books, my friend. Consider your perfect hero or heroine. Identifying with a hero makes us feel good as human beings, even if it’s shortlived. Experiencing someone beating the odds and winning also gives us hope, even if we’re cynical and don’t believe in happy endings. Sometimes those tiny moments of hopefulness are the only things keeping the people around me alive.
If you’re not the hopeful type, fiction still has something to offer. Our lives might have a beginning and an ending, but there’s no clear story arc to guide our way. Life is just a series of scenes, a seemingly endless stream of teasers. Because it lacks structure, many of have no clue how to make sense of it. Sure, a good bender makes it all okay for a while, but we can’t be drunk all the time. (No. You can’t.) A well written piece of fiction (book or screenplay) has structure and helps our brains navigate the sea of emotions, events, actions and urges that everyone experiences, and guides us through them until we reach the end. When we step out of our little boat, we might say, “Hmm, I’ve never thought of it that way before.” or “I was right/wrong.” and we move on. Maybe you don’t consciously acknowledge these things, but as you read, your brain is making the connections.
Basically, fiction takes real life and divides it into small chunks that are easier to manage, and it gives us insight into just what the fuck we’re all doing here. It doesn’t show us the secret to surviving this shit show, but that’s because the truth about life is, no one gets out alive. Not much can be done about that, folks.
While we’re not heroes and we certainly don’t merit a standing ovation or a medal of honor, writers of fiction (screenplays or novels) are vital to society and to the human race in general. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not some giant ego walking around thinking I’m the shit and contribute something even remotely life altering to humanity, but as a writer, I don’t think what I do is a waste of time either. It is through fiction that we can take life apart, piece by piece, and examine it without worrying that our efforts will bring it all crashing down. Fiction is actually more logical, more realistic, than real life because it has to make sense. Essentially, when we write fiction, we endeavor to make sense out of life. What’s pointless about that?
That is as deep as this girl gets, folks, and it only happens occasionally so soak it up.
What do you gain from reading fiction? What do you hope to achieve in writing it?