Empathy and understanding
I’m writing right now from the heart – one that hurts, and I know to say that makes me vulnerable, and that’s okay. It’s been a hard few days.
What I’m writing about is story, which always comes from the heart.
That’s why the first thing writers must ask themselves when they start a new story is: what’s my point? Because all stories make a point from the very first sentence. A point about human nature. The point is what you want your readers to walk away thinking about. It’s what you want them to walk away feeling. It’s what you believe, deeply, about the world. It’s the change you want to see in the world.
The second question is: why does this story matter to you? Why do you care? What makes this important to you? Because it has to be important to you, or else it will be so easy to let it go when the going gets rough. And it will, because writing is hard, and because we all have that little voice in our head that says, “Really, that’s what you’re writing about? Do you actually think anyone else will care? And plus, sheesh, you call that a sentence?” And when you tell that voice to shut the heck up, it then resorts to bribes: what about a nice nap? A snack? That new show streaming on Netflix?
Knowing why what you’re writing about matters deeply to you is what will keep you writing, against all odds (real and imagined).
Is it worth it? Only if you want to change the world. Because that’s what stories do, they change the world, one reader at a time. Studies have shown that stories can rewire our brains to have more empathy.
And right now, given the grave divisions in our country, empathy is what we need. Empathy and understanding. As Toni Morrison so said eloquently:
This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge—even wisdom. Like art.
That’s why, right now, I feel incredibly honored to be able to help writers to do just that.
Thank you for what you do. At the end of the day, your story just may make the difference.