Many people have asked me why I started writing fiction. Wondering in silence if I did not have something better to do. Because after all, everyone knows that writing a book is mainly a whole lot of work. For free. With a massive risk attached to it that in the end nobody but you will be interested in the final product. So what is there possibly to ‘gain’ from it? Why is writing a fiction book ‘worth it?’
Let me begin by explaining why I grew up ‘reading’ fiction as a child.
From an early age I understood the power of a strong story. Books were my companions. And I’m forever grateful I grew up in a time where creative work was more about ‘sharing thoughts and perspectives’ rather than ’showing off lavish lifestyles.’ Though I now have a lot more grown up responsibilities, I still love books. Not only as a welcome escape (the ability to temporarily be someone else has always seemed like a special kind of magic to me) but also for what they teach us about the world, ourselves and one another, and the hope they give us for the world to come.
Fiction stories have told me as a child that most things I feared for the future have all happened before. Only in different times, with different names but very similar narratives. Fiction stories have also told me that it’s completely normal to be scared, ashamed at times, to have complicated feelings and to feel a bit lost. I guess that in difficult and confusing times, reading fiction has always reminded me that we are all human. In a way that instagram (or any other social media platform) never can.
So it’s obvious to me that reading fiction has it’s benefits. Not just on an individual level, but for society in general. Now let met tell you; what exactly did I gain from writing a book myself?
Writing fiction taught me to look at situations from different perspectives.
Imagining stories helps you activate the regions of the brain responsible for better understanding others and for looking at the world from many different perspectives. You know what they say, right? ‘Imagining yourself in the shoes of others creates understanding.’
Writing fiction taught me to go ‘deeper’ with my work.
My previous creative work was always very safe. There was never a whole lot of substance in my work to judge me on. But you can say a lot more about my latest book (or my short stories.) There is a lot more to judge me by. And you will undoubtedly not always agree with me as a reader. To bring such a product out into the world is therefore a lot scarier than a quick post on social media that really doesn’t say all that much.
Writing fiction taught me to have vision.
Writing a book taught me to see the finished product in front of me from the very beginning and envision the impact the story could possibly have once people hold it in their hands. While writing a book I also came to understand that people where not going to see my vision for me. I would have to show them what I already saw through hard work and determination. This realisation helped me become more of an individual and made me stop looking for validation from others.
Writing fiction taught me to turn an idea into something tangible.
If you think you are the only one in the world who ever had an idea floathing trough their mind, you are not paying attention to your surroundings. I’m well aware that everyone has ideas constantly. But writing a book, in particular, taught me that there’s nothing special about having an idea. What is special is to be able to build on an idea and turn it into something real. The magic in writing fiction was seeing an initial idea in my head eventually becoming an entire story with impact in the form of a book.
Writing fiction taught me to believe in my ideas and to finish it.
Writing a book taught me to stay devoted to one single idea for a very long time. Years, in the case of my latest book. And the experience of writing a book on a schedule in good times and in bad times taught me not to give up when the going gets tough. It taught me to keep faith in ‘my messy, creative process.’ A process that always comes with ups and downs.
Writing fiction taught me to be patient.
Because of social media (for the most part,) a whole lot of people of my generation have become increasingly impatient, arrogant and demanding of attention constantly (for no fucking reason. Let’s keep it real.) Most young people today want to immediatly recieve their reward after they have put in the work. If not, they will throw in the towel. But working on a book in solitude for a very long time made me realize that some of the best products and people take time to grow.
Writing fiction made me be able to live up to my full creative potential.
Writing a book felt like a limitless experience. I didn’t need an enormous budget to make anything happen. I also didn’t need someone to tell me what was possible or not. I could make it all happen and I could make it all possible. It was incredible to read the stories I could come up with when their were barely any boundaries placed upon me. No feeling in the world comes closer to magic.
Writing fiction taught me how to be alone.
When you write a book you spend an awful lot of time by yourself. And it was during this time that I learned to appreciate and love the solitude that came with writing a book. Alone time taught me to not be afraid of myself and my original thoughts. It might surprise you how many people can’t be alone with their thoughts without needing to seek distraction from them after a while.
Writing fiction keeps your brains on it’s toes.
Writing a book doesn’t happen overnight; you need to make a plan and stick with a schedule in order to finish a book. Continuing to write on a tight schedule helped me to learn time management and commitment more than anything else. Not only is it good practice for time management and commitment, but writing ofcourse also improves your mental agility, ability to connect (creativity) and vocabulary skills.
Writing fiction made me believe in dreams again.
In my life I have seen people become incredibly lucky. (Yes, I do believe that ‘luck’ is a very real thing.) On the other hand I have also seen people suffering who didn’t deserve it. This observation made it hard for me to continue to believe in my dreams as I got older. But writing a book made me realize more than anything that I had incredible power of my own. I could work hard to create unique and valuable stories and I could put myself out into the world. Writing a book made me realize more than anything that I would have to chase my dreams in order for them to come true. My dreams won’t come to me. Well… the odds of that are very small. We can’t all be privileged, have a loan of one million dollars or be ‘in the right place, at the right time’ after all.
And last but not least; writing fiction made me feel incredibly happy again.
Most people know that I have been suffering from (minor) depressions. But the creative process of writing a book gave me a sense of purpose back in my life. And when I feel a deep sense of purpose, it’s hard for me to feel depressed. Even when I feel sad or over-worked. Having a worthwhile problem to solve always engages my mind. And having a clear goal to strive for is what keeps me moving forward in life.
Writing this book was for me what a vacation would be for many others who can afford it. It was a ‘free’ escape from everyday life, but also a way to come closer to who I am as a person, without society disrupting this constantly.
Writing fiction most likely won’t make you ‘wealthy.’ That’s right. But despite the poverty, obscurity and solitude, how can anyone say that writing a book is a waste of someone’s time and energy? Since when did we make ‘money and status’ more important than any of the above mentioned? Arent’t all of these reasons ‘worth’ something in a human-being anymore? What changed?