Humanity is defined by stories. Not just retrospectively in terms of its history but also actively by the stories and books that define current, and indeed future, behaviour for many around the world.
This time of year has special significance for many people, including: Rama Navami (Hindu), Lailat-Al-Miraj (Muslim), Baisakhi (Sikh), Easter (Christian), Spring Equinox (Pagan), and Passover (Jewish) to name but a few. All of these involve important stories, and many have special written texts, be that the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, the Tripitaka, the Vedas, etc.
Take just one example: Easter. Here is a powerful story that impacts upon millions around the world, and is this weekend being celebrated, and retold, indeed also in some cases actually re-enacted. That original ‘story’, of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is over two thousand years old yet has relevance to so many today around the whole globe. It is also interesting to note that there are at least four official versions in the form of the gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John.
Generally these texts have had a positive impact on human development, inspiring and guiding the lives of millions over many generations. Sadly, though, sometimes these stories and their interpretations do also bring terrible conflict and as a result suffering. Whatever the rights and wrongs, or indeed the overall balance between good and bad influence, there is no denying their power.
Whilst different stories have different impacts, each and every story is valid of itself, because it is the author expressing something. Fact or fiction, history or fable, it is still a story.
Virginia Woolf famously said: “It doesn’t have to be the truth, just your vision of it, written down.”
Our entire lives are impacted by stories, and we can impact others with ours. By writing our own stories down we are not just helping ourselves make sense of our world we are also helping others. Our thoughts expressed in a story may not be as profound as a religious text, indeed could be simply for entertainment, but it is in the connection with others that the power lies.
That connection can achieve so many different things. First of all do not underestimate entertainment, because that allows people to relax and be refreshed – not least the catharsis that a particular story can provide is a rejuvenating thing.
Stories can allow people or events to live on long after they are gone – somebody, or something, that is important to the author can, through a story, become important to others. In an increasingly digital and individual age the importance of, and need for, empathy also must not be underestimated – connecting through the written word can enable others to understand their own situations better or perhaps just feel that they are not alone.
Stories, though, do not always have to be meaningful or even important. Above all writing a story should not be daunting. The risk is that people don’t write because they don’t think they are good enough, or that they have not got a subject that is worthy enough. Nothing could be further from the truth. Anything and everything is worth writing a story about. Sylvia Plath once said: “Every story, every incident, every bit of conversation is raw material for me.” You just have to choose what inspires you personally to write.
After all we all have an imagination, although most of us probably don’t use it nearly enough. As the science fiction writer PJ Farmer once said: “Imagination is like a muscle. I found out that the more I wrote, the bigger it got.” We all use it when we read a book, because we are, in our mind’s eye, conjuring up the scene and what the characters look and sound like. Actually it works both ways, so in just the same way we can use our imaginations to convert what we have experienced, or seen, or felt, or thought into words.
So, go on, stop just reading and start writing !
“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters;
and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.”