Since before humans had the ability to speak, we had the compelling need to share our thoughts. Pictographs dating back thousands of years have been studied for the information those ancient civilizations wanted to pass on to others. Once we found words, conveying our experiences has become easier, but we seem even more obsessed about sharing our thoughts and feelings, especially now with so many “social” outlets designed for the express purpose of telling others what’s on our minds.
If you look at every expressive medium available—from painting, photography, films, sculpture, music, and the written word—our hunger to find shared experiences and emotions is limitless. Is it simply our desire to reassure ourselves that what we feel is okay, or is there a greater need of feeling like a part of a larger whole? Does coming across something that resonates inside validate us, or is it the other way around, that identifying with the vision the writer/artist has conjured up in turn legitimizes what they are trying to tell us?
*Question: What is it you are looking for when you choose a book? Is it a conscious or subconscious craving? Do you read simply to pass the time, or do you have a deep need to identify with the subject matter?
In addition to reading, watching movies, listening to music, and appreciating art, I write. If I turn the tables on myself, I have to ask why—why do I feel compelled to create stories with (mostly) fictional characters? What is the purpose of making up yarns about people that don’t exist outside my own head? In the sixteen years that I’ve been thus engaged, I’ve never once put that question to myself.
So, that brings to mind another question: is communicating through the written word something we as writers do because of an inexplicable need to have our thoughts read by others? When I consider that question, I honestly can’t imagine why I’d think I have anything interesting to say.
But maybe I’m being too serious about this. Maybe reading what others have written is really no different than putting food in our bodies. Maybe our minds require a certain amount of stimulus in order to survive. If I have any free time, the first thing I want to do is fill it was some form of entertainment.
See…I called these forms of communication entertainment. But would any of us find it entertaining if whatever story was being related didn’t stir something in us? Can we really be distracted without some part of our minds and hearts being engaged? Isn’t laughing at some silly comedy filling us with something besides a few minutes’ reprieve from everyday life? Or is what might seem perfectly innocent actually a stealthy way of penetrating our psyches, like saying “See, I know what makes you laugh. You understand what I’m talking about. You get this because you’re human, just like the rest of us.”
Next time you go in search of a new book to read or a show to watch, see if you can figure out what’s driving your desire to be entertained by someone else’s story.
For my part, as I restart the third book in the Madeline Dawkins series, I will ask myself “why would anyone want to read this?” Knowing me, I may be temporarily silenced by that question, just as I know that the urge to communicate my story will override my doubts. I guess I could say I write, therefore I am. Or more accurately, I write because I can’t think of a good reason not to.
So, tell me what’s on your mind…
Until next time,
Very truly yours,