Monday, May 14, 2007

Why Write? Stories Can Change the World

"We become what we tell ourselves we are," writes psychologist Mary Pipher in The Shelter of Each Other, "Good stories have the power to save us."

I read Pipher's book ten or more years ago, and that particular quote has stayed with me. I believe she is right, and furthermore, I believe that writers have a responsibility to tell the best stories we can, to aim high, to not settle for less than the transformative magic we are capable of. I believe we can change the world with our words. More than that, I believe we should never cease trying.

So today when I read Sarah Weinman's LA Times review of mystery novelist Sara Paretsky's new memoir, Writing In An Age of Silence, I was struck by what Weinman describes as Paretsky's desire to speak out in a nation that has moved from "proud speech into near-deafening silence." Weinman sums up the urgency I feel in the last paragraph:
Paretsky's concerns, especially in the searing final chapter, bring to mind Mike Judge's recent movie "Idiocracy": that if we don't act soon for change, we will end up with the cruel world we deserve.
Isn't that why we write?

So that we won't end up saying "I wish I had spoken out," or "I wish I had taken the time to. . .." You complete the sentence. Then write about it, and send your words out into the world to feed hungry hearts and minds.

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