Stories matter, right?
Maybe you feel this doubt sometimes. Maybe you occasionally wonder if your work, and the time you spend writing stories.... is really important enough to be worth it.
On those days when you doubt yourself, or when you feel overwhelmed by other demands on your time and focus, it's important to remember that your stories matter. Here are three reasons why:
1) Voice: Imagine what the world would be like if all books sounded pretty much the same. That would stink, wouldn't it? Stories would become flat without new insights to discover, different personalities to enjoy, or different writing styles. That's why your unique voice and vision is important. Only you interpret the world in the exact way you do, and readers need a wide variety of voices.
2) Simulation. When we fall into a story, we experience the character's troubles from the safety of our home. fMRI exams have shown that when we read, our brain activity mirrors some of the activity that it would if we were actually experiencing it. That's why we feel so 'connected' to a good story - it's because we are! Our brain is experiencing the story as a simulation while we read.
How do you know this is true? By the strength of your emotional reaction to a story. Maybe you sometimes put down your book just so you can imagine how you would react differently in that same situation. No? That's just me? Okay. But I'm almost positive a certain story has moved you enough that you'd be happy to throw a few snarky remarks to this character: (scroll down...)
AM I RIGHT?
If so, you sympathized with Harry Potter, his friends, and classmates who suffered under the rule of Professor Umbridge. You sympathized because emotionally, it happened to you too. When your story lands in the hands of readers, they will experience the world you created - a world that is different from their own. We know that the more variety of experiences that people have, the more wisdom they gain. The same is true of reading. Reading books about characters who are different from yourself gives you awareness and strengthens your empathy.
3) Stories can change lives. Not only can they show us ways to solve problems (as well as how NOT to solve problems), but they express ideas and philosophies that can leave deep impressions on the reader. Maybe your experiences, your voice, your story will help you create the book that will really matter to someone. Or maybe to many people. And if you think you're not the one to write an important book, consider this quote:
From the journal of L.M. Montgomery:
"... My book came today, fresh from the publishers. I candidly confess that it was for me a proud, wonderful, thrilling moment! There in my hand lay the material realization of all the dreams and hopes and ambitions and struggles of my whole conscious existence - my first book! Not a great book at all - but mine, mine, mine, - something to which I had given birth - something which, but for me, would never have existed...."
Lucy Maud Montgomery was writing about ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. It's hard to imagine that she didn't think it was a 'great book.' She had no idea it'd still be on bookshelves a hundred years later and that millions of readers (and many writers) would hold it dearly in their hearts. As I've said in the past, the 'Anne series' changed my outlook on life - for the better in many ways. I know I would not be the person I am today without these books. I've met many other people who have said similar things about Anne. The author didn't think it was a great book, but it most certainly is.
Because stories evoke emotion, they matter.
They make us fall in love and shows us what it feels like to be loved.
They teach us about strength and hope, courage and sacrifice.
They help us to find those emotions within ourselves.
Stories give us insight into our personal struggles when we find a character with similar problems.
Stories will always be important because they give us an emotional connection to lives that are different from our own.
Your stories matter.
So, continue your work of awesomeness. Keep supporting literacy and people's love for stories. Support artwork across all genres and mediums. There are probably a million quotes on why art is important, but I'm going to close with these three:
"Life isn't a support system for art, it's the other way around." - Stephen King
"For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgement."
- President John F. Kennedy
"Art can transform lives. It gives us the power to question, to confront, to explore, and to challenge how we think about the world." - Lucy Liu