Chuck Palahniuk once said, “That’s why I write, because life never works except in retrospect. You can’t control life, at least you can control your version.” Being a writer gives you something no other person has: control. Not only can you make up fantasy worlds beyond our wildest dreams, but you can manipulate your craft of writing in order to influence others. Writers have the power to portray the facts and to open the minds of readers. In a world where it seems everything is happening at once, writers can calm the chaos.
When reading fiction, readers are able to forget about the stress and shuffle of their daily lives. Instead they’re are brought somewhere, in another world full of drama outside their daily imagination. Instead of worrying about needing to finish homework on time, or finding a babysitter for a weekend, they’re able to worry about how Harry is going to defeat He-Who-Cannot-Be-Named, or how Jay Gatsby is going to get Daisy to run away with him. In today’s world of technology, it is even harder to find peace of mind, but with the help of writers everywhere, readers are able to put down the beeping cell-phones, close the flashing laptops, and pick up a book. That book can create a community, and that community is something that sticks together, staying up late into the night talking about the plot twist they read in the last chapter. With a book by your side, you’ll never feel alone.
Writing can work to inspire. Maybe you just lost your job; you’re in a mindset where you feel nothing is ever going to go right for you. But then you pick up a book about a man who had nothing but twenty-five dollars and his duffle bag, and through nothing but hard work and preservation he not only got a job, but eventually rented his own apartment. He took what he had and made a life for himself. It makes you realize that if Adam Shepard can do it, then surely you can find a new job (Scratch Beginnings).
Writing has the power to open up eyes. Have you ever read a book that made you stop and think? Today it seems like it’s getting harder and harder to understand each other. Everyone seems to think that just because they had a bad day, they are having the worst day out of every one they know. Everyone has made their lives very public with social media, making it much easier to complain about the daily struggles, but sometimes you have to take a step back from that. Instead read a memoir on a woman who’s pregnant. It should be a time to celebrate, but she can’t. Why? Because she just found out her son has Down’s Syndrome and everyone is telling her to abort, when she knows it’s a decision she cannot possibly make (Expecting Adam, Martha Beck). It’s a story like this that make you stop thinking of yourself. You try to put yourself in Martha’s shoes, ask yourself what you would do, but it’s not an easy answer. Give life to a child that will face unimaginable challenges, or make the decision to take away someone’s life? Stories like this force us to step out of our comfort zone for a little while and see through someone’s else’s eyes. Nonfiction stories especially, can create a connection that would not be there otherwise.
Writing gives appreciation for the world around you. With how fast and busy our lives are, it can be hard to notice the small and simple things that happen in front of you every day. You may not notice the small flowers just beginning to bud in the soil of a busy forest. Writers describe things in ways that force you to notice the world the way it is. After you read a book you may go for a walk, and for the first time, notice that subtle crunch a leaf makes when you step on it. Or how tree trunks have a sort of natural pattern to them, or how the green leaves have thin veins that run through them, much the same as the veins in our own bodies. There are these intimate details all around you, but with the hustle and bustle of the world, these tiny treasures are lost amongst the roar of reality Without the gift of an author’s description, some people would never notice these minuscule details. When you see it in writing, you see it in reality.
Writing teaches you things. Life does not come with an instruction manual, but you can visit the how-to section of a library and get pretty close. There are countless books that teach you how to do simple things like knit, cook, or build your own house, all through the written word. There are books on how to live a happy life—easier said than done—but writers who feel they have come up with a way to do something sufficiently write about it. They advise you on how to take care of your first baby, or how to live a healthy lifestyle.
Writing allow you to laugh when you want to cry. When you’ve had your heart broken, a writer can make you forget about how you wanted to sob in the corner for the rest of the night. Allie Brosh can make you smile by telling you about the time a goose followed her into her house and her boyfriend ran away screaming. She can also tell you how they had it trapped in the kitchen, but knew it was only a matter of time before it tried to attack them again (Hyperbole and a Half).
Writing makes the world a bigger place. There are no limits in writing. You can exist in whatever format the writer chooses. You can write to be a fireman, a police officer, a teacher. You can write to be something that is unheard of; a superhero, a fairy, a princess. Through the act of writing, and through the act reading, you can be whoever you want to be. When it comes to bravery, there are no bounds. In reality you may be afraid to ask your crush out on a date, but in writing you can make the moment comes alive as you finally speak to the person you’ve been to terrified of being rejected by. You can live out your biggest fantasies, or you can use writing to gain just a bit of courage in reality.
Writing informs. Without the help of journalists around the world, there would be no way for everyone to be kept up on what is happening around the world. There’s no way for you to know about the fire that started in the old mill building in town. Instead you rely on the local journalist to investigate and put together a story that informs you of the fire. Otherwise all you would know was that there was a lot of smoke in the sky and a road was closed off. Journalists open up a mode of communication. News stories inform and connect a community as one. Investigative journalists are known for their ability to take little-known stories and make them big. They have the power to not only inform the world of secrets that are being kept, but also shed light on lies that are being told. Without their work, there are some voices that will never be heard, and justice that will never be served.
Every piece of writing is making an argument. There is the power of persuasion in the written words that is hard to find anywhere else. You may live years having no opinion on gun laws, until of course you read a moving piece of writing. If you read a story about a school shooting in the newspaper, you will suddenly find yourself feeling need for tighter, more regulated gun laws. But, if instead you read a piece on civil rights, or a story of a man who was able to save his home from a robber, you may find yourself wanting to learn the benefits of keeping your civil right.
Writing helps record our lives, and to not only remember our past, but to re-live it. The only way to improve our future is to learn from our past. And while there is access to pictures and videos, it does not trump over the written word. Cameras can capture only what is on the surface. Writing allows you to see deeper. So while there may be pictures from World War II, there are many pieces that allow readers to relive it. To hear the crash of a bomb going off, to taste the smoke in the air, to hear your friend calling for your help. Things like this, the things that leave you thinking after you’ve finished reading, are not simple things that can be captured by photos or videos.
Whether through fiction or nonfiction, writing does something to your reality that makes things make just a bit more sense. In fiction you can live out your wildest dreams, doing things that would never be possible and finally have the control that is denied from you in your daily lives. In nonfiction you can report, process, and use writing to better understands yourself and the world around you. Doors are opened every time someone sits down to write, so take the time to fill up a blank page with stories that will unfold.