“The beauty of reading is not a college course on existentialism or a psychology seminar on the disaffection brought about by suburban living. Reading can also allow us to imagine a different world, a different self… I am more than happy to read about history and psychology of oppression, the disenfranchisement of our culture and the overwhelming power of capital — but these revelations are poor fare if I cannot also imagine a different world and a different life where the chains of the modern world can be shrugged.” -Walter Mosley (Introduction to Black Pulp)
Why do we read? Why do we write? Why do we write hoping others will read?
There’s a mystical beauty and power in reading. So powerful that it’s the driving factor for most writers as to why they write and express themselves through the written word.
Some point in the writer’s life they came under the magical spell of reading. Taken away to another world or given a new perspective of the universe through the still small voice of another author.
The author didn’t have to be well known, famous, or had written dozens of titles. They could’ve just written the one book, but the one book changed us forever.
If we stop and pause for a moment nothing is more miraculous than books and reading. We can read a book, article, essay, or blog post, and have a lively exchange of one person’s voice and perspective without ever knowing the person.
We don’t have to agree with their perspective, and the ending of a story might not be your favorite. But the magic has happened, and it’s all because of a book.
Walter Mosley is right, we read because it…
“allows us to imagine a different world, a different self… A different life.”
Writers write because we all know something deeper is going on. We all want to imagine another world. A world where oppression and injustice is a thing of the past. The above quote by Mosley is written by an African American writer who knows the power of story. The power to change perceptions and create empathy.
Sometimes I wonder if fiction is the only pathway for this kind of vision of new realities. I know stories of Batman and Superman will not change the world. But it might change the world of one person who dreams of being a hero for another person.
I don’t think the stories of superheroes or Sci-Fi and fantasy are the end point. The stories are a means to dream and imagine something else. A new world and vision for the future. These myths and stories are just pointers for what else is going on the universe. The stuff we can’t see and the stuff we don’t know. The mystery and the wonder of what is and what could be.
“Just give me the facts and tell me what to do,” aren’t helpful if we can’t imagine a new world, self, and any semblance of peace.
Storytelling is the portal in which it enlivens our imaginations to what is and what could be.
Don’t stop telling stories because imbedded in a story is an opening of possibilities and hopes we can only dream about.
I find it fascinating that the God of the Bible when he reveals himself to the world he does it through telling stories. Sixty six to be exact.
I don’t think it’s any accident that the Maker of the Universe is a storyteller and the way into our hearts and imaginations is through these same means.
Never think your story has no meaning and is a waste of time to tell. Stories just might save the world, or at least my world.
Ryan J. Pelton is a teacher and genre-nomad author with over seventeen fiction and nonfiction titles to date. He also hosts a popular writing and publishing podcast, The Prolific Writer. Ryan reads, writes, naps, and nurses a Diet Coke addiction, with his wife and four children in Kansas City, Missouri. Buy a book and send his kid’s to college.