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I had a strange fascination when I was a kid with being a child prodigy.
As you might’ve picked up on, I don’t have talents that would’ve warranted fame and fortune before double digits. However, I knew from a young age that if any endeavor would get me there, it was creative writing.
The first story I ever wrote was titled The Mystery of Monster’s Cove, which made its debut when I was seven. While typing, I found it so arduous a task to put quotation marks around every quote that I sometimes did it and sometimes didn’t. The font was Curlz MT and it was purple. The cover art was a Clip Art photo of a cave. The story was about a girl who goes on vacation with her family and meets a boy who tells her about some mysterious “cove” at the beach. The “cove” (which was really a cave in my brain but one sounded fancier than the other) housed a terrible monster, and the girl set out to find out who that gosh darn monster was. Spoiler alert: it was the boy all along.
I had no idea why kids didn’t publish books.
How could you not know how to do it? I brought a copy to my best friend’s house, who was the only one I knew with a copy machine back in 2002, and we printed a whole bunch. We stapled them all together, then put them on a card table at the end of her driveway (on a dead end street) and waited for the cash to start rollin’ in. Duh, what was all the fuss about?
I only sold one copy, to my friend’s mom. I wasn’t disappointed though, because she asked me to autograph it for when I was famous someday. Starting at that moment, writing became a lifelong hobby that would help me through almost every struggle I’ve met thus far.
Nowadays, I’m writing creative nonfiction. That means using the same story elements fiction writers use (plot, setting, character building, etc.) but for real events. For me, it makes the sometimes terrible, sad, and scary world seem more poetic and beautiful. Have you ever heard that the meaning of life is to give life meaning? This is what creates meaning for me. This is why all writers do what they do, regardless of genre.
Writing creates meaning.
I think most writers understand this, but we’ve been using this power all wrong lately. We’ve been creating meanings that help us get more followers on social media, not ones that help bring people together. The written word has an incredible amount of power to connect people, and we’re not harnessing it.
How does writing connect people? All I’m doing is pushing buttons that make letters show up on a screen.
Well, I’ll tell ya. Have you ever read or heard a story that changed your life, even in a smallish way? Perhaps when you read Catcher in the Rye in high school, Holden Caulfield pissed you the F off because he was so damn cynical and you hoped to GOD that your angsty ass never sounded like him. That was you deciding to be more positive. That changed your life. Maybe you have a story passed down by your ancestors that gives you a strong sense of your family. Without that story, you wouldn’t know yourself as well. Maybe your best friend wrote a story and asked you to read it. Her confiding in you, and you respecting that, builds trust in your relationship that could change the course of it.
These are only three examples of ways that words can touch lives- there are millions more. But the takeaway is that everyone can be touched by a story, so everyone can connect on that universal point. Instead of capitalizing on that though, and trying to make people love each other more, we instead use our influence simply to make people hit the share button. This means evoking emotion, even if it’s just enraging people so they share it with the comment of “can you believe this friggin bullshit” which polarizes people instead of bringing them together. Writers could save the damn world, I swear, if we could just use our power for good.
In the comments, tell me the story that stands out to you as having given you some meaning. I can’t wait to hear from you! Share this post with your friends to hear a million more stories, and use them to connect to each other in new ways.
Interested in checking out some of my writing? You can see a piece called Three Synapses right here!