Everyone who takes up the task of crafting together stories, real or fictional, has a reason. Some want to be famous authors. Some want to explore the human experience. Some want to write for the sake of writing. And some have an inner story to tell.
Just how worthwhile are each of these motivations?
I am uncertain just how many people in the world are writers, but there are not that many who make it to popular status; and many who do get there are hard pressed to stay there for any length of time. Then there are the mixed opinions: is the piece a worthwhile read that makes a difference in the lives of its readers? Or is it just sensational, often loaded with fluff? Sadly, too many authors aiming for popularity opt to take the latter route.
Those who do choose to write meaningful “human experience” pieces undoubtedly have good intentions in their craft, as one English teacher pointed out. But what many “literary” non-fiction writers struggle with is an almost snobbery attitude towards fantasy, sci-fi, and other fictional genres. For some, it is notably extreme; for others, it is more mild and subtle, exhibited only as a slight iciness, the conscious thought of such an individual that non-literary pieces bring little to no value in improving anyone’s life in the real world.
The other struggle of many self-professed literary writers is that in their search for the human experience, they fail to acknowledge that this process is all about recognizing the light from the darkness. That is it. Without darkness, the light has no meaning (and makes for really boring reading); without light, human experience is empty and hopeless. Basically, too many writers of this intent never explore the darkness to any degree, or they do it too much. If they do not balance the light and the darkness within mankind, they have failed to properly explore what the real human struggle is and has been for the last several millennia.
Then there are those that write just for the sake of writing. While this motive may seem a reasonable philosophy, by itself, it is worthless. Yes, people should experiment to see what personal methods for writing have the greatest impact; every writer needs to do some of this at some point of they want to be any good. However, there are some I have encountered that think to write for themselves alone. Face it, folks: that’s personal journals only. If you want to keep it to yourself, that is fine, but do not call yourself a full-fledged writer. Writing is about communication. Unless you are writing to dig deep into suppressed memory of some sort, you ought to consider sharing some of your pieces with a few others, however few. I cannot imagine what the poet Emily Dickenson missed out on by not exploring her ideas with other people (for those that do not know, Dickenson’s works were not discovered until after her passing).
Lastly, there are those that have a story to tell. These are usually the people that actually do reveal the greatest meaning in their works, even those that are fictional in nature. Just think of the number of cultures that have such stories in the form of fairy tales, creation stories and folk tales. Recently, I wrote a paper on The Hobbit, and was surprised to find nuggets of hidden info on the human experience, despite the main character being a hobbit (to be posted later). Likewise, the story that has the greatest meaning for me is The Long Patrol, a book in the Redwall Series written by Brian Jacques. I would state why it has such meaning for me, but that would spoil the story for those that have not read it. If anyone really wants to know me outside of reading my own books, they have to read The Long Patrol. It could explain a lot of things…
Essentially, people who write to become famous or have bragging rights are treading on thin ice with their own expectations. People who write to explore the human experience often become too dry. Those who write for its own sake tend to sound empty. Those who share their stories, however exaggerated, but focus on telling their stories, pose a much greater chance of being remembered longest by their audience, however large or small.