The Value of Writing

Sometimes, I don’t know if it’s worth writing a blog.  People don’t read as much today as they did just a few years back. What with all the wild things going on around the world, with social turmoil, violence, hatred, fear, greed, and politics, more politics than you can throw a stick, or sweep away from you with a broom or a tennis racquet, there’s just too much going on for someone to care about someone else’s blog

If I was writing about politics, about health care or the sitting president, or the former president, or about Russia or Syria, Asia, or Africa, or Civil Rights, then I’d probably have a million readers. And just as likely I might have half a million readers who hated me, a few thousand who liked me and the rest who couldn’t make up their minds.

But I’m not interested in writing about that. I admit that I follow much of that melodrama, but I’m not interested in contributing my voice to much of it.

Recently, I heard a black man speak who had marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, who stood up for civil rights and was frequently beaten down for it, who’s heart still beat in fear whenever he’s driving down the road and he hears a police siren racing up behind him. It was his message that impressed me the most. He said the Civil Rights movement back in 1950s through the 1970s was about Inclusiveness, about being respected as a human being, about fair treatment, equality, about living in peace and harmony with Whites, Asians, Hispanics, Arabs, and Native Americans, and that the current Civil Rights movement should be called the Uncivil Rights movement, or the Hatred Movement. He felt that Dr. King’s movement had been stolen from Dr. King, because now everyone wants to play the victim card. They want to be treated as victims and they want separate spaces, whole buildings where only one race lives in it, whole colleges, whole cities, maybe even whole states. And he’s disappointed and ashamed with all these young people fighting against the very thing that Dr. King and those would up with him fought for.

See, I can write about politics. But I don’t want to. I’d rather  write about writing.

Everyone writes something every day. People write notes. People write Emails or Tweet, or write code. They write Fan Fiction. They write computer games. They write gift cards. And many, many, MANY people write poems, essays, and fiction. And they all want to be published, either online or by mainstream book publishers. And they want to be published now.

What do they desire from publishing? Fame. And money. Lots and lots of money. They want wealth and fame. And did I mention riches? They want to be wealthy.

Everyone wants to write a best seller and they want to flaunt it in  people’s faces. “I sold a million copies of my book, while you sold only one or two. I’m a success and your a failure. I’m valuable and you’re NOT!”

Most writers aren’t interested in the craft of writing. They’re not interested in the art of writing. They’re not concerned about being artists. They just want the fame and money.

Writers suffer from every kind of fear, depression, regret, and self-doubt that everyone else does. And many of them feel the only way to overcome it is through wealth and fame. They want to make certain the world remembers them long after they’re gone.

But what does wealth and fame do for anyone? How many billionaires and executives and rock stars and comics are really happy? What good is fame to Bill Cosby? Or money? He’s more infamous now than famous. And his victims want to punish him by taking his wealth away, even if it hurts his family. What do they care about others? They want justice. But it’s not justice, it’s revenge.

An old man, a parent and grandparent, who lost his entire family when the Oklahoma City bomber blew up the federal building, even killing his grandson who was in day care, forgave the killer. He said what good would hatred and revenge do him? It wouldn’t bring back his son or his darling grandson, who was the light of his life. Why hate someone when life was so short and so important? Would hating bring him relief from his suffering? Would hate heal him or make him happy again? No.

His story was told. And as a writer, I have lots of stories to tell. Some I can never share or tell, not even in fiction. Some things are just too hard to revisit. Some things are too personal.

Stories are important. Books are important. Novels and poems and non-fiction are important. Back during World War 2, millions of books were sent to soldiers, sailors, and airman, both in stateside camps and overseas. At first, they were gathered from publishing houses, from libraries, from private collections. But after a short while, the military began printing (with writers’ and publisher’s permission) fiction and non-fiction stories for the fighting man and fighting woman to read. Female pilots flew air craft from the U.S. to Russia; nurses served in every combat theater overseas, including the Philipines.

The purpose of all this was two-fold. One, to counter the message that Fascism presented the world, of race hatred and hatred of culture. And, two, because reading stories and non-fiction books helped our men and women to process reality. Those who chose books to read found that they could better  process the killing and death and destruction they witnessed every day. They could remember home and happiness, a better time. They read about valuing people, about valuing love and compassion and kindness, about good versus evil.

I don’t know if video games are as valuable with processing reality today. I doubt movies are, for they’re a shared experience, a temporary experience of just finite period of time. Reading a good story is a one-on-one experience, one that takes time, one that fills your thoughts and your spirit and soul. It is a deeply personal relationship between the reader and the writer.

Good stories bless their readers.

That’s why reading and writing are so important. It’s not about the money or the fame, its about the writer sharing his ideals and his experiences with the reader, in a manner in which the reader can relate to. Sometimes, what a writer shares comes from other peoples experiences and not just his or her own experience. That, too, is valuable.

Too many writers today don’t care about the value of their work, other than its monetary value.

Let’s look at an example of valuable writing, the original Star Trek series (I could have picked a thousand different examples, including Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone, but most people know about Star Trek.)

What did we love about Star Trek? The characters and their friendships. They were more than friends, more than colleagues, they were family. But we also loved their challenges and their experiences. So many stories were filled with values and goodness, with racial equality, with an end to hatred, even with humor. Who can forget “The Trouble with Tribbles”? Or “Space Seed”, when the Enterprise crew awakes Khan and his cohorts, ready, willing, and able to conquer the universe?

Gene Roddenberry didn’t create that show  just to make money (which it didn’t do when it was originally on television) but to tell the stories he wanted to tell. To help people see a golden future where everyone on Earth could be friends.

So, to all those writers out there who decry about not being read, who don’t give a damn about art or good story telling, but only want wealth and fame and define success by those categories, I say that, yes, wealth would be nice, but even if you only have a few readers, if they’re entertained by your work, if they’re moved by it and it helps them get through the day, if they can relate with the characters and what they’re experiencing, then you are a success. Then you’re a good writer.

Don’t just measure your success by how much money you make or how many readers you have. Judge it by how good you feel when someone, anyone, likes what you’ve written.

And never give up home.

See You Out There.



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