(A/N: This post is in honour of the victims, the emergency staff, and those in mourning in Boston)
I was on the treadmill, running, as the devastating events surrounding the Boston Marathon were unfolding.
Because of the time difference between Boston and Vancouver, BC, it was my lunch hour, which, as usual, saw me in the gym located beneath my office.
I was enjoying my run that day, which is by no means a guaranteed occurrence. Afterward, to commemorate, I took to Twitter to convey my delight in how just the right song coming up on one’s iTunes shuffle at just the right time (such as during the final five-minute sprint) can transform an otherwise good run into one that’s AWESOME and KICKASS and makes you feel able to CONQUER THE WORLD!
It was then that I took a closer look at the content of all those #Boston tweets filling my Twitter stream….
And at once deleted my own now highly insensitive (however unwittingly) tweet.
That night at home, my mind still reeling from the horrific footage I’d viewed earlier online, I just sat there at my dining table, staring into space. The minute-hand on my clock made its final descent to 7:30pm – my customary time to start writing – and began its subsequent rise towards 8:00pm and later.
How could I waste my time on something as trivial as writing fiction after such a senseless act of brutality had just taken place?
Words have power
The answer to that question came by way of writer/blogger/social media maven Ksenia Anske, who faced a similar dilemma five months ago following the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
In her post entitled “Write a Novel. Change This Fucking World for the Better.”, Ksenia explains how her motivation for writing is her own personal pain, which she mines and extracts on paper as a means of trying to help eliminate social problems. She implores others to do the same, stating that in helping others feel your pain along with you, we can all do something about it together.
That’s not the only benefit writing a novel can produce.
According to the November/December 2011 issues of Scientific American Mind,
Recent research shows that … reading stories can actually improve your social skills by helping you better understand other human beings. The process of entering imagined worlds of fiction builds empathy and improves your ability to take another person’s point of view…. It can hone your social brain, so that when your put your book down you may be better prepared for camaraderie, collaboration, even love. (pp.63-64)
Not only does fiction help writers exorcise their demons and become healthier, happier members of society, it benefits readers as well by introducing them to new ideas and worldviews, and providing valuable training in empathy.
With so many acts of hatred and violence occurring every day all over the globe, if there’s one thing the world needs, it’s more empathy.
I once blogged about why I write. One of those reasons was to educate, or because I have something to say. These days, this reason comes out in every bit of fiction I compose or conceive of in my mind.
Every chapter, every page, every sentence, every last word I choose is imbued with meaning – with something much bigger than the ebbs and flows of the story’s plot – that I want to communicate to and about this world we all live in, in the best way I know how.
This is probably why it takes me so long to finish writing anything, and something which, if I ever want to produce novels on a commercially-viable schedule, I may need to someday abandon.
But not today.