Sometimes, I wonder if writing fiction is frivolous. In a world where animals are mistreated, and people are eating out of dumpsters, where does fiction fit? Stories don’t stop abuse. Stories don’t feed starving people. I am fairly sure the couple I saw taking turns wearing the one pair of shoes they had would prefer more sneakers, not a story. As a writer, it’s a bleak thought to wonder if storytelling might not just be a frivolous pastime.
I refuse to bow to bleak.
Art is a valuable expression of our humanity. Art transmits ideas, and fiction is the perfect vehicle for new modes of thinking. Stories are a way to put what is in my mind into your mind. The best art illuminates the mundane by refuting the very concept of “mundane.” Every moment is a revelation. Every experience is an opportunity to encounter the prosaic from a new perspective. Art gives us a way to share our revelations.
Do I think fiction is frivolous? No. I think we need more of it, and more of all other arts, too. I encourage everyone to create that which makes them excited about being alive. It will change the world. Your joy will spread to those closest to you, and your art will carry your message places you would never expect and could never plan. The seeds of changes are in your creative power. YOUR art is not inconsequential. It may bring a person out of the dark. It may bring you out of the dark.
I love the era of digital freedom. Now, more than ever, groups of like-minded individuals can “meet,” without leaving the comfort of their own continents. Ideas cross borders, and there is no reason for the masses to be homogenized into some manageable, marketable stereotypes. If there are seven people on the planet who LOVE making fake sausages out of textiles, and this brings them joy, those seven people can find the thousand people who want to support fake-sausage artists. We don’t have to understand what they see in it, but I believe we do have to encourage creative joy in all forms. The world is a better place when we are able to create and share. If small groups way out in the “long tail” of the creative markets bond and support one another, we stand a chance to solve those bigger societal problems, one situation at a time. The fake-sausage artists won’t let each other starve or go shoeless. They will have found their net, their way out of the dark, but it couldn’t happen if they didn’t reach out from their creative joy first.
I guess maybe it sounds a little Pollyanna (or Penny, from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog!) to advocate that creating even the strangest, niche art can change the world. But think about it: when I am a happy creative, I am not wallowing in self-pity. I’m engaging the world. I’m able to be aware of the plight of others because I am no longer wrapped tight in the winding-sheet of my own unfulfilled needs. When I’m creating, I’m engaged. When I’m engaged, I notice what others need. When I notice what someone else needs, I can do something to help. Small kindnesses, yes, but these are the foundation of a better, less painful world. I can’t fix everything wrong with the world, but I can make this moment better for someone, somewhere. I can do that in person if I am not wrapped up in selfishness. My stories allow me to be there for someone even when I am not there in person, and wow, isn’t that some powerful juju?!
Now that writers can go straight to readers, there is no reason for anyone to remained mired in that half-alive state of waiting for “acceptance.” They can share their stories NOW, and use the momentum of sharing to propel themselves into more empathetic modes of being. This means that some writers will, gasp!, publish things that aren’t as polished as you want. Personally, I like it that writers are able to make mistakes in front of readers. I like it, even though I’ve read several indie books that were huge disappointments in terms of craft. You know what? Despite the imperfection of their delivery, those stories are still with me. I love well-crafted prose, but even stumbling prose that tells me something new is a gift. I encourage those who are stumbling to keep on writing. If they are teachable, if they are willing to listen to their readers, if they keep following their bliss, they will improve. Their readers will love them for it, because they’ve been included in the journey. The world will be better because of those stories, and there’s nothing frivolous about it!