What Writing Means

I have been reading an article in Poets & Writers about current writers (and book sellers) in Egypt. (Yes, I am a couple months behind on my trade reading.) With the continuing upheaval (think Arab Spring and then lots more) in the country, it is precarious to be a writer or to be selling modern fiction because of censorship, political unrest, and increasing extremist Moslem influence on the politics and law. To be honest, I wondered at first what this article–mostly informative and diary–was doing leading the magazine. But the further I get from it, the more I think about the images it created in my mind’s eye.

As writers (and publishers and book sellers and readers and story-keepers), we have a tradition of overcoming (this is a prevalent word in my own life, lately). And of what? I wanted to explore some action verbs, here. Writers overcome by… Teaching. Enlightening. Pushing boundaries. Leading. Challenging. Entertaining. Surprising. Shocking. Questioning. Scaring. Amusing.

I know there are some purists out there who claim writers write because the are compelled or because they like to. Some say writing is just writing. And still others (myself  not excluded) say that writers write for money. Well, many of them do. That’s true. Writers are sometimes compelled, they usually enjoy it, and they try to make money doing it (in general). I am also willing to concede that writing is writing. It is.

But I’m not willing to admit that writing is just writing or that its possibilities end with a compulsion or with an enjoyment (on either the author’s or the reader’s side) or with economic dividends. For while I feel a little compelled, really enjoy, and hopefully will make heaps of money (someday) writing, I bask in the possibilities of writing as a social impetus, a conversation with the reader, a tool for help, and all those other wonderful things that writing has been known to do.

And not just writing. Art, in general, is very important to society for no less than that creative people are the innovators, the thinkers, the questioners, the wonderers, the originators, and the pushers, and art is often their means of communication. And I in no way am saying that nonfiction is the main means by which to accomplish all this, nor am I excluding it. I would like to one day touch the world through my own, true story or through something as humble as a cookbook. But I expect–actually glory in the fact–that my books can and most likely will change someone and maybe even do things much broader than that, in the future, in the great, wide world.

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