Reach Out and Touch Someone – But Keep Your Hands to Yourself

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Sometimes, if we are lucky, the work of a writer – a storyteller – touches us, and I don’t mean like that creepy guy at the bus stop who smells like liquor at 8 o’clock in the morning.

If we, the reader, are very fortunate, the meaning of a piece of writing will break through the haze of complications and worry that surrounds our inner minds – the part that really feels – and give it a little tap. Whether it is a fictional story, a real life anecdote, or maybe some observations on the human condition, that moment of feeling – an all too brief connection between writer and reader – is very important and needs to be pursued.

The majority of popular culture, it seems to me, is afraid to make that connection or to to be touched too deeply – kind of like a nun with a rape whistle. Anything that gives us an emotional reaction or, God forbid, makes us think, cannot possibly be a good thing, and should be avoided at all costs.

This is why, I believe, Reality Television is so popular. It is a group of characters behaving badly, with no discernable arc or personal journey who are well beyond any hope of growth or redemption. The programs are a flat line of conflict without story, and are, really, just a collection of idiots making a lot of noise while they give humanity a bad name. It does not ask the audience to feel anything (except maybe shame at being caught watching) and so is an easy, mind numbing experience that costs us nothing.

If we really get emotionally involved in something, whether it is a cause, a friend, or a story, there is a price we have to pay. We are called upon to examine the way we feel about something. We are called upon to learn a little bit about ourselves. We are called upon, perhaps, to change the way we see things if the lesson we learned strikes deep enough.

Most of the time people don’t want to feel, they don’t want to learn, they don’t want to change. They want to soak in the ridulousness of horrible people doing horrible things so they can ignore their lives just a little bit more, for a little bit longer.

This I cannot abide, and if you’ve been reading this blog, or anything else I’ve ever written, I’m guessing you can’t abide it either.

I think the world needs more stories. It needs more heroes, worse villains, and greater journeys. The world needs storytellers, not to preach to us about the way things should be, but to move us to open our minds a little so we can figure out how things are, and how we ought to make them.

I am not guiltless, and have my little addictions to silly shit, just like everyone else. But the next time you sit down to watch another episode of drunken idiots saying rude things to each other, ask yourself if you’re learning anything, if you’re feeling anything. When you have an answer, think about the truth of it, and what it means.

In my writing life, I have had plenty of opportunity for discouragement. But everytime I read something that touches me, that really affects me, I am inspired. When I hear from someone that they liked one of my stories, that it really spoke to them, that maybe it made them feel something, then I am once more filled with an enthusiasm for the words.

If you are a writer, keep writing. Those words you’re getting down are valuable, and they are needed.

In the words of Robert J Sawyer at the last Surrey Writer’s Conference: “Your story won’t matter to everyone, but it will matter, very much, to someone.”

Thanks for reading.