The Value of Writing and Reading Fiction (And Maybe, Non-fiction, Too)

Last weekend I read a blog post that was so provocative, inspiring, and engaging, that I decided I couldn’t wait for a monthly round-up; I had to share it now.

5 Reasons Writing is Important to the World

In this post, on HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors.com, K.M. Weiland shares the experiences that made her a writer, the questions that had her doubting her career choice, the wisdom of others that provided answers to her questions, and the five reasons she is able to conclude “writing is important to the world.”

Don’t take my word for it. Go read the post now, and then come back.

Wasn’t That Inspiring!

I’m tempted to quote so much of what she said, but of course, you’ve already read it. Instead I’d like to comment and elaborate on her 5 conclusions and how they resonate for me.

5 Reasons I Agree Writing, and Thereby Reading, Stories, both Fiction and Non, is of Value for Us Personally and for Our World:

“1. Stories give us good truths.” They show us how the world works. They inspire us to be better and often show us how. Stories, both fictional and non, are therefore empowering.

“2. Stories give us bad truths.” Stories, again both fiction and non-fiction, can serve as warnings. They provide a training ground for discovering strategies and ways of being that work and ones that do not. Better yet, as a reader, you get to discover these things vicariously, rather than have to suffer the consequences of dangerous, foolish, or selfish/narrow-minded actions.

“3. Stories open our minds and teach us empathy.” Effective educators know that reading fiction and experiencing life through a character’s mind and heart, expands our and our students’ wealth of experience. They show us how other people’s feelings and thought processes work, as we experience them through character. Thus story, both fiction and non, helps develop empathy for others.

I love this Merriam Webster definition of empathy:

the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also :the capacity for this

In a world that seems to be growing smaller, more crowded, and more conflicted each day, empathy is an absolutely essential skill for living together in harmony.

“4. Stories offer us archetypal role models.” Weiland asks “if you’ve ever been in the midst of a difficult experience or faced by an overwhelming decision—and you were helped in remembering a character who endured something similar?” Have you? I know I have. At one very difficult time in my life inspiration provided by a fictional character helped buy my children 15 more years with an intact, functional nuclear family.

“5. Stories teach us to hope.” In our messy, messy world and our imperfect, challenging lives it can be tempting to just give up. But stories show us the effort to not just survive, but thrive is worthwhile. They remind us that light and hope remain in our world. While we cannot live lives of unadulterated bliss, times of joy, of love, of peace do exist, and if we make wise choices on our journeys, we will experience them and carry their memories within us along the way.

Your Turn

What do you feel is the value of reading and writing? In focusing on Weiland’s post, is there anything you think I missed? Please share in the comment space below. I love to hear from you!

 

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Setting: C.S. Lewis on Reality–“We Couldn’t Make it Up”

In the book Mere Christianity, Lewis reflects on the nature of reality:

Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. It is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect. For instance, when you have grasped that the earth and the other planets go round the sun, you would naturally expect that all the planets were made to match–all at equal distances from each other…or distances that regularly increased…. In face, you find no rhyme or reason (that we can see) about either the sizes or the distances; and some of them have one moon, one has four,…and one has a ring.

Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. This is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up.

I Should Feel We Were Making It Up

This principle applies not just to Christian apologetics, but to fiction writing as well. (Isn’t it interesting to note that Lewis was also a fiction writer, a literature professor, and medieval literature specialist.)

If the setting in our stories is too simple, too predictable, readers will feel like we’re just making it all up (which, of course, we are) rather than experience being swept up in the fictional dream.

Feel Real

For our fiction’s settings to feel real, they need to be complex, to contain variations–twists, surprises, imperfections, and to make even contemporary settings highly individual, particular, even a bit peculiar in their specificity

Your Turn

In the comment space below, please share the title and author of a work you read recently in which the author made the setting feel real. What was it that made it seem like it “could not be made up.” Or, are you a writer? Feel free to share an excerpt from your work illustrating a “reality” rendered in a way that seems it “could not be made up.”

I look forward to hearing from you!