It’s been a heck of a year. It’s hard not to notice when the world is—both figuratively and literally—on fire. Whether you’ve had a loved one in the path of a massive hurricane. Or you watched in horror at the violence in Las Vegas. Or struggled with a more personal trauma. There is really no shortage of things around right now to kick your psyche when it’s down. Honestly, that’s probably always been the case.
But, this is a blog about writing and you might be asking yourself where that fits in. That’s sort of the point—how do we keep working, keep creating, when we face hardship? And why?
I primarily write silly things and nerdy little romances. It’s hard sometimes not to feel like I should be doing something else. Something bigger. Something more important. I know for a fact I’m not the only person who has those thoughts.
There’s nothing wrong with being socially responsible, and I would go so far as to say it’s absolutely necessary to give time to causes you feel strongly about. But I’m specifically talking about those times when we writers and artists feel like our work is too small to matter. When we look at our comedy-horror about vacuum repair men and just think “yeah, but what difference does it make”.
I’m not the first person to say this, but it bares repeating: It matters. Your story matters.
You will probably never know how much it matters. But there is someone out there who needs it.
I could bore you with philosophical abstractions or inspirational quotes, but I want to propose a little exercise instead. I would like you to make a list of at least three times a piece of media or art was important to you. Of course, you could talk about all the big revelations you had reading “To Kill a Mockingbird”. I can’t tell you what ‘important’ means to you. But I’d urge you to remember this list is for you, there are no wrong answers.
Have you ever gone through a bad break-up and wound up listening to the same sappy song over and over again? Was there ever a tough workday where you just needed a good laugh, and your favorite rom-com was there for you? Did you and your brother bond over a particular video game? Were you a young girl who learned to embrace her weird by watching the Muppets? (Guilty.)
Those are all valid and important.
Now, for part two, I’d like you take a good hard look at something you’ve written, or are writing, and list the ways it might be important to someone else.
Writers are often their own worst critics. I’m urging you not to brush this off. No “oh, nobody reads my work”. I don’t care if you’re writing a sci-fi AU Pride and Prejudice fanfic where Mr. Darcy is a cyborg. (If none of that made sense to you, don’t worry about it. It’s a bit nerdy.) I would like you to take a page of notebook paper and think seriously about people who might think your story is important, and why.
Will it relax them? Will it make them laugh, when they need a good laugh? Can it take their mind off their problems for an hour? Does it have really good representation of underrepresented groups? Can they see themselves in your heroes?
Those are all important. And there are a lot more.
The world needs your story. That’s not hyperbole, it’s just the truth.
Go write your heart out.
Your friendly neighborhood storyteller,
Featured image by NASA, via Wikimedia Commons