My favorite FaceBook meme shows shelves absolutely stuffed with books; you can’t cram another title in. The caption: If your bookshelf looks like this, 100% guaranteed, you will buy a book.
So with a billion books in the world, why would anyone make the effort to write yet another one? The books we read and write define us, define our world, define our age. We change, our world changes, the mores of our age change. And so we write new books to reflect that change. That’s what I do.
Not only is the skill of conveying information useful for keeping civilization going, teaching is personally satisfying. And every writer, I claim, is a teacher. The most mundane of potboilers teaches something—what poor editing looks like, if nothing else. And fiction teaches better than non-fiction. The reader reads non-fiction with a firm mindset, evaluating and criticizing as she or he goes. Those defenses are down in fiction; like the pied piper, a good story carries the reader along a road of the writer’s choosing. Fiction can bypass the suspicious brain to reach the heart.
My favourite example is a movie, not a book. For Navajo children, butchering for meat and hides is a necessary way of life. So some researchers asked them, is it okay to kill animals? Of course it was okay. They then showed them the movie Harry and the Hendersons, a fluff PG piece; kid stuff. And they asked the same question. Noooooo! It’s not okay! Fiction teaches the heart.
In order for fiction to work, of course, the story has to grip the reader’s interest in the face of TV, movies on demand, video games, hanging out with friends, FaceBooking, texting—and ever more new distractions every day. I am convinced also that good work requires strong characters to provide both positive and negative role models (for adults, too). And if your work teaches nothing else, it should model grammatically correct language, thank you very much.
So should everyone write a book? Absolutely! A personal memoir if nothing else; your voice and experiences are unique. It is how the future will learn about the past, how your progeny will learn about you. I invite you to have at it, and to join me in one of life’s most deliciously pleasurable pursuits. Writing.