Why Writing Fiction Matters
A global lockdown could be the best time to write or the worst.
Maybe you’re loving the fact that you don’t have to run errands or attend physical meetings. Maybe you’re hating the sudden change to your routine; the fact that everyone is home, and that your finances have been upended.
I’m a member of a private writing group on Facebook that has approximately 5,000 members; recently, someone posted about how they were struggling to write during this uncertain time and they wanted to know how everyone else was going.
Some authors shared that they had to put current projects aside because of their subject matter (climate change/global collapse/apocalypse), others were ‘on and off’, having both good days and bad, while other confirmed that their lives were largely unchanged and that their life was carrying on as normal (mostly).
If you fall into one of the first two camps, I am sure you’ve had at least some of the following thoughts: What is the point in writing? The world doesn’t need my story. My story can’t make this situation better, so writing it is a waste of time.
Here’s the things guys, this situation is not going to last forever. Thankfully.
If you are struggling with any kind of hardship, writing will be difficult.
If you are experiencing financial uncertainty, if you or your family is sick, or working in high-risk occupations, then writing will be difficult right now.
Of course, it’s hard to write your novel if you aren’t sure how you’re going to pay your rent.
If you can relate to any of these scenarios, then go easy on yourself.
Do what you can, when you can, and if you can’t write because other things need your attention (*cough, cough* Centrelink *cough*cough*) or because you’re consumed with worry about [X], then that’s okay.
Life is weird right now. Don’t hold yourself to your normal standards.
However, if you fall into the latter camp and your life is relatively stable, and yet you too are grappling with these questions of validity, here’s some thoughts that may help you.
How would you feel if the book industry collapsed, Amazon folded, and libraries shut their doors? How would you feel if all the novels that lined your bookshelf disappeared? Would you be willing to live in a world that didn’t have any books?
I am guessing no.
So, why is that? What do books give you that is so valuable you wouldn’t be willing to live without them?
Books have all kinds of functions.
They offer entertainment, and provide insight.
They make you feel something.
They teach you stuff.
They articulate thoughts, feelings, and experiences that you have had, but didn’t know how to put into words.
You meet people who are just like you and nothing like you.
You get to walk around in someone else’s world and live through their problems with no responsibility to solve them.
Books do lots of things, just as all art does lots of things.
Our need to make art, to tell stories, to perform, and to create music is ancient.
We write stories in order to process events and circumstances around us. We write stories because a topic has intrigued us, it keeps us awake at night, and we want to know more.
In times of crisis, artists often wonder, what is the point? But the thing is, if you stop making art, how will future generation know what our collective and/or cultural attitudes were? How will they know what we were thinking or feeling?
I am all for art for arts sake, but if you need a ‘legitimate’ reason, a full-blown permission slip in order to write your story, here it is: Art is a record.
Your stories, regardless of their content, are a part of history.
Maybe you’ll only sell 100 copies of your book, but that’s okay. Maybe your novel won’t influence the zeitgeist or become the poster child of an era, but so what?
The world needs your stories anyway, happy or sad, in good times and bad.
There’s no shame in creating art. The only shame would be if we all came out of lockdown and you were left thinking, ‘but wait! I actually wanted some extra time to finish this story!’
This lockdown won’t last forever, but if you want to make the most of this time, then start now. Set a word count, dedicate an afternoon, make a mini-goal and pick out a reward for when you are done.
All progress is good progress.
Art has a purpose. Whatever purpose you want to give it.
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