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JoNightshade
05-02-2008, 10:59 AM
akiwiguy has graciously allowed me to use his post (from another thread) to start this topic, which I find interesting.


I won't say what, but an event stunned me into realising the power and significance of everything that we write, or speak. Almost an epiphany or paradigm shift.

And I believe that, yes, we have been given a gift that is to be used. And to go further, whether we write as pure entertainment or on more serious themes, we all have incredible power to choose what it is that we wish to impart to others. And we don't have to be Nobel Prize-winning authors to do it.

Without sounding too dramatic about it, something has been niggling at my conscience to stop and think about why I am writing, my motives and what it is that I really want to write for some time. A personal thing.

Here's something to think about. Everyone on here would die to be a successful, recognised writer. For many of us, it may not happen. But let's just say it did. Somehow it happened. And one day you had to look back at what you've become recognised for. What influence would you have wanted to have? And I don't think that that thought is irrelevant to any genres. Even if your content is pure entertainment... we still convey our own underlying selves I think. Our beliefs, character, spirit if you like.

It is like the spoken word. Our writing always has power, whether modest or very significant. Every single one of us on here is saying something every time we even post. Sometimes fun. Sometimes about serious issues, or in response to others needs. It must be significant, or what the hell are we bothering doing it for?

His words struck me because I think about this too - in the long run, I may not be famous, but it's certain that my words will have an impact on someone.

Do you think about the wider implications and responsibilities of your writing? Do you think you HAVE a responsibility at all?

JoNightshade
05-02-2008, 11:06 AM
I wanted to put my own thoughts in a separate post. :)

First, yes, I also think about things like this. And I know that all things I do have an impact on the people around me - but because writing is my "talent" or my "gift" or whatever you want to call it, I think the impact is that much greater.

When I was about 15, I had an idea for a little kids' story illustrating adoption from God's point of view - how no baby is a mistake for Him, and that every child ends up exactly where he planned. I wrote it up and illustrated it. I've never tried to sell it, but my mom (being my mom) printed some copies and handed it around.

A couple of years ago, my mom called me and said, "You remember that little children's book you wrote? Aunt Chris met a girl who was about to abort her baby. She gave her your book. And she decided to have the child."

Because of a few words I jotted down, a life came into this world.

So yes - yes, I think I have a great responsibility. I've thought about what I'd do if I ever did become famous, and people started asking me to explain my religious and political views. I have very strong beliefs, but I do not think I would ever express them in a public venue. I think I would keep my mouth shut and let my works speak for themselves. If someone understands what I am saying and wants to hear, they will. I don't need to muddy the water with my incoherent mumblings. :)

And yet at the same time, I almost can't think about any of that when I'm writing. Because if I did, I think I'd feel like the responsibility was too great to say anything at all. Either that, or I will feel as if I haven't said enough, and then I'll get boring and preachy. So I have to let it come out, and then I have to make sure it's something that feels significant and true. And I have to hope that other people will see that, too.

Shweta
05-02-2008, 11:14 AM
The way I see it, I have a responsibility to see things as clearly as I can and think in ways that are not knee-jerk, and to care about things that affect other people.
And if I have that general attitude, some of that will work its way into my writing. I cannot Try To Teach with writing, as Jo says that gets preachy and boring, but I do think writing can express who you are and how you feel. So I see my responsibility as a) being someone worth self-expression and b) not being frightened to go there.

Which isn't to say every story has that, but... sometimes things bubble through.

maestrowork
05-02-2008, 06:06 PM
I want to leave something behind. Not having any kids, I feel that I can leave the world my words, my thoughts, my creation (be it my stories or music, etc.) and even if one other person find them enlightening or entertaining, it would be worthwhile for me.

Every time someone writes to me to tell me how my writing has helped them, or made them laugh, or changed their minds about life, or made them stay up all night, etc. it really, really, really MAKES MY DAY. It's not just recognition. And of course I'd love to be rich. ;) But it's not about my own ego, I don't think (sure, there's a bit of that -- writers have ego). But it really is about giving up a bit of myself to make that special connection with one another. I guess it's the same feeling I get from live performances on stage -- the instant gratification I get from the audience. There's that connection. With movies or novels, you get a delayed reaction, but the connection is there nonetheless.

I guess it's fair to say I write to connect. And that includes the millions of posts I have on AW.

aka eraser
05-02-2008, 06:09 PM
I don't think about leaving a legacy with my words (although I have very little doubt my book will be hailed as a classic in its field and sell for decades after my death ;)).

I write to share what I observe and occasionally, what I've come to know or understand about what I've observed. If, while doing so, I can evoke a chuckle or an appreciative nod, then that'll do as a legacy.

Oh, and cheques. Cheques are good.

jennontheisland
05-02-2008, 06:12 PM
Not at all.

I've only ever read "literary fiction" for grades. I read for a momentary escape from the mundane, a cheap thrill. I write trashy romance for the same reason.

Cranky
05-02-2008, 06:20 PM
Up until I started writing my newest WIP, I didn't feel like what I was doing was in any way important or anything like that. I've been having fun, and hoping that anyone who reads what I've written has fun with it, too.

But with this one, I feel it's very important that I "get it right". If I don't, I'm going to make a lot of people very angry, and not in a good way. At the same time, I still have a responsibility (to myself!) to write the best possible story I can. It's a bit of a tightrope, but I don't mind balancing on it.

I'm actually loving the challenge, and I think the book will be better for it than if I just wrote whatever I wanted to, without thinking of the ramifications of what I'm writing about.

Of course, if it doesn't get published, all of that will turn out to be irrelevant as far as a larger audience is concerned. :D

mscelina
05-02-2008, 06:24 PM
No matter how fanciful the story I write (epic fantasy--good grief) every single one of my stories is an allegory for something that happened in real life. Although it would take a determined reader with a chisel to find that "Aha! She wrote this on 9/11!" moment, I know it's there.

In the long run, though, as long as what I've written has taken a person from the harshness of every day life for a few brief hours--I am content.

Calla Lily
05-02-2008, 06:27 PM
I write books you can read at the beach, or on a long, rainy afternoon--escapism. Because that's what I like to read.

Now there are layers of meaning in them, and major, significant life-changing type events--but they're cloaked in humor or thrills or mystery or terror.

stormie
05-02-2008, 06:32 PM
Mostly I write what I call conversational-type essays. Nothing deep. And they've been published in religious mags. I know that through them, I've touched at least one person, to make them laugh, to make them see a connection between two points, to maybe see someone else's take on the subject.

When I was a teacher, every day I knew I was touching a life, by a child's quick hug or a student's eyes lighting up when they caught on to what I was teaching. As a writer, it's more solitary, less often do I get that acknowledgement that I am reaching someone. But I'm okay with that. Maybe that's why I keep AW open while I work on my WIP of the moment, so I can interact with others. (See how important you guys are to me?)

Melenka
05-02-2008, 06:48 PM
I spend my work days helping people. I know that my words and actions have an impact on the people who come to my office. I also know that they don't always get what they want or believe they need. While I'm aware that writing can have that sort of impact, I don't know that what I am currently writing would or should change anyone's life. I suppose it might provide for someone else that same sort of pleasant bubble of escapism into which I retreat when I read. That would be good enough for me. I certainly hope that no one reading it decides to do anything my characters are doing/have done because the lot of them are criminals!

stormie
05-02-2008, 06:51 PM
I certainly hope that no one reading it decides to do anything my characters are doing/have done because the lot of them are criminals!
I write the occasional short story where someone gets killed. One that was published demonstrated how to kill someone with just a ballpoint pen. :D

SPMiller
05-02-2008, 07:04 PM
Significant? I don't think that highly of myself that I'd describe what I write as significant. To me, maybe, and perhaps to a few of my readers, but not to society as a whole.

I started out writing because I wanted to communicate. I believed I had a new take on the old stories. I wanted to share my thoughts, feelings, and experiences with my readers in a way that they would hopefully find both entertaining and enlightening.

But lately I've begun to feel the crunch of the amateur writer--no money! After all, I'm not generating a real product with real value. In societal terms, writing is superfluous. So although I still hope to communicate, it's more about profit now than it is about some fanciful notion of artistic expression.

Jackfishwoman
05-02-2008, 08:00 PM
I started writing because I wanted to be able to reach people and to help people who are wounded. I also wanted to help people understand things that they may never have understood before. I didn't know if that would ever happen - but it has.
A woman who read my book recently approached my mother and (with tears in her eyes) explained how my book had impacted her life. She said she wanted to get down on her knees and beg forgiveness of all the victims of domestic violence that she had formerly judged so harshly and did not understand why they would not leave the abuser. She said that my book made her understand so deeply and vividly that she will never think the same way again.
Imagine such a response! And I have had many more like that.
Writing for me has a been a way to "stand up and speak out".
Telling stories can change people's lives!
It is such a gift we writers have, no matter if it is just for pure escapism or for psychologically/philosophically transformative experiences.
It's magic.

KikiteNeko
05-02-2008, 08:51 PM
I write honestly, and every time I sit down to write I remind myself to write fearlessly, which for me means to write without worrying about whom I may offend. I also aim to write lucidly, so that anyone can hear and understand what I'm trying to say without abstraction. I do think of the impact my writing will have on people. I hope it will be a positive "wow that was honest" and "this story holds no important details back." I have had a small handful of people read my unpublished works and later tell me that it really impacted them, which made me realize the power I as a writer hold with my words. And I had that in mind when I completed my first manuscript, which is a deep look into the grieving mind of a chacter who's just suffered the biggest loss she could have imagined. I don't know how it will be received, but I thought of how I would like it to be.

Dibley
05-02-2008, 09:42 PM
All writing is significant, I think, because words bring joy and escape and education to people.
There are of course different kinds and people argue about which is better. I don't read romantic fiction, for example, or beach books but I've selected the kind of reading and writing that I see as important to me personally.
People's lives can be changed by the briefest sentence they read, and it doesn't matter what genre that came from.
I'd like my writing to be such that people see how life can be one big adventure, and so people don't wish away their days waiting for something to happen.

Judg
05-02-2008, 09:58 PM
I think values are sometimes communicated most powerfully in entertainment, perhaps because it's more subliminal.

I do hope that what I write has an influence on people. That would be more meaningful to me than high sales. But I'm still trying to make it a very entertaining story. And high sales would feel good too...

But what I really live for is the day I get the letter that says, "Your book made me think about something I never thought about before."

mscelina
05-02-2008, 10:03 PM
But what I really live for is the day I get the letter that says, "Your book made me think about something I never thought about before."

I got one of those letters about one of my erotica novels...I was not QUITE as thrilled about it as you might think. ;)

Calla Lily
05-02-2008, 10:09 PM
I got one of those letters about one of my erotica novels...I was not QUITE as thrilled about it as you might think. ;)

:roll: :eek:

JoNightshade
05-02-2008, 10:10 PM
So, to change the direction of the thread a bit (can I do that?), here's another question. Since most of us agree that our writing is significant in some way, what are the "gems" you hope others will take away from reading your work?

For me I guess it's different for each book, but I think overall I hope people take away the idea that people aren't always what they seem. For example, that person who is incredibly rude to you in the grocery store or at work or in the parking lot. We usually respond by getting our hackles up - how dare they? Or maybe that person you don't know very well who seems mean or irritating or stupid. After reading my stuff, I hope people will think twice about those kinds of judgments. Because you never really know what someone else is going through, or where they have been. You don't know what is in their heart, or how they have been hurt in the past. Maybe them lashing out at you is the best that they can do, and for them it's a big accomplishment.

I also hope people take away the sense that it is never really too late to reach out to someone. It's never too late to make yourself better, even if it seems like everything is broken.

And, I guess... how very interconnected we all are. Even if we try to isolate ourselves, it's impossible. We have an effect on others, and how we choose to affect people gives meaning to our lives.

brokenfingers
05-02-2008, 10:48 PM
I’ve pretty much reconciled myself to the fact that my work will not be recognized for the genius it is until after I die a tragic, untimely death.

I’m sure that the world will eventually get my message then, and see the depths of my understanding of the human condition. It’s not my fault that they’re not ready to discover it now.

So, I just try to write stories that people will enjoy.

And if they don’t enjoy my stories, well, then there’s obviously something wrong with them!

Melenka
05-02-2008, 11:34 PM
What might they take away? Leave murder to the professionals. Revenge is ultimately unsatisfying. No matter how twisted you get, you are still human and there are things that will bypass your damage to remind you of that. There is no such thing as privacy in the digital era. Blood is thicker than water. And harder to clean up.

Uplifting, huh?

IceCreamEmpress
05-02-2008, 11:38 PM
Blood is thicker than water. And harder to clean up.

This is a fantastic epigram. Love it!

slcboston
05-02-2008, 11:43 PM
Beyond the visceral appeal of having someone enjoy what I've written, I don't put too much thought into it's "significance." That's for someone else to decide - whether via a critic for a population at large, or on an individual reader by reader basis.

I think what anyone gets out of any work of art - good or bad - is as much dependent on what the viewer brings to the work as what the artists (in our case writer) intended, if not more so.

Calla Lily
05-02-2008, 11:43 PM
Takeaways from my books. Funny, but I have a thriller, a mystery, and a vampire book, and the overarching takeaways an all 3 might be (in order of importance):
Good cooking is worth learning.
Your true friends love you for who you are.
There is a God who gives a crap, no matter what, and He's waiting for you to ask.

Shadow_Ferret
05-03-2008, 12:10 AM
Do you think about the wider implications and responsibilities of your writing? Do you think you HAVE a responsibility at all?No. Never. I write fluff.

RLB
05-03-2008, 12:19 AM
I'm just hoping to make some kid, somewhere, giggle a bit. And I'd love to get paid for it.

inkkognito
05-03-2008, 12:51 AM
I most definitely think about this, both in terms of my writing and of my counseling work. In writing, I've often felt that if I could touch at least one person in the same way that my favorite authors have touched me, I will have accomplished an important personal goal.

As a counselor, it's very frustrating because many people aren't ready to change, even when they believe they are. The success rate isn't as great as you might imagine when you're dealing with the most difficult issues. It was hard to learn that during my internship, but one thing gave me hope. I had one client who I got a little closer to than I normally would due to the way he was referred to me (he started out in a particular program, then started seeing me for individual work). He made HUGE changes in his life, and I still keep in touch with him today. Whenever I feel discouraged, I can remind myself that I touched at least one person's life in a positive way and it gives me a little more fuel to keep going.

I am starting to meld my writing and counseling by doing self-help articles, and I hope to eventually do books. I'm hoping that will be a very tangible way to touch people's lives for the better.

Phaeal
05-03-2008, 12:51 AM
I want people to come away with a sense of awe at the complexity of the universe, with a longing to explore its light and dark paths, and with a renewed appreciation of the threads that tie us to our own particular lives, to which we can return for a breath of homely air after the rigors of exploration.

Wow -- I just figured that out! Who knew?

Shweta
05-03-2008, 01:54 AM
I'm just hoping to make some kid, somewhere, giggle a bit. And I'd love to get paid for it.
The books that made me giggle as a kid probably had more of an effect on forming me as a person than any other single factor. Not that I had any idea of that at the time.

So I'm not sure that's a "just" :)

Me, I'm caught between cultures and cultural norms, and most of my stories end up having that as one theme. I'm just hoping that by looking at that as honestly as I can, I can give people some feel of what that's like and what it leads to. :Shrug: Other stories have other things. But most of my characters are somehow caught -between-.

Chasing the Horizon
05-03-2008, 08:35 AM
Do you think about the wider implications and responsibilities of your writing? Do you think you HAVE a responsibility at all?
No. All my writing is utterly frivolous drivel, designed purely to entertain and indulge mankind's natural fascination with graphic violence and our innate need for a happy ending despite it. Any philosophical meaning found within any of my work by anyone is purely coincidental, and probably imagined. Furthermore, if you actually adopt the ideals conveyed in my books in your real life, I will take no responsibility for the long prison sentences or significantly shorter lifespans that may result. :D

RickN
05-03-2008, 04:58 PM
I got one of those letters about one of my erotica novels...I was not QUITE as thrilled about it as you might think. ;)

I'm just hoping that it was my wife that wrote to you.

dreamsofnever
05-03-2008, 05:59 PM
Wow, Jo, that's incredibly powerful about your book! Now that's the ideal.

Anyways, this is a great post. I can say that my favorite books all do have something powerful that I take away from them, even if they're not there to teach or preach.

With my current WIP, I hope people take away the idea that love is a lot of work, but it's worth it and that anyone can make a decision to turn their life around and move towards redemption. And this is all for a book about superheroes that I wrote for fun. The themes/take-aways evolved naturally from my own world view and the characters and where they were when I started the story (and where they ended up when I concluded it)

Don Allen
05-03-2008, 06:49 PM
Great thread Jo, (a rep point coming)
I'm not sure if anyone really realizes the power of their words or effect they can have on people. Case in Point: About 18 years ago I was writing a comic advertising circular for a circulation of about 40,000 per month. Nothing earth shattering but a bit of a platform none the less. Well, one of the suburbs that was in the area had a controversy involving the pollution from a oil refinery next to high school. Just to be sarcastic I wrote a piece naming the top ten reasons the oil refinery should be allowed to stay and left alone. As i remember one of the reasons was that "Unlike other schools, the children at this school learn to take fire drills seriously" stuff like that... So... anyway the publication went out and i had a few phone calls about it saying it was funny and all but nothing of merit. Then about 6 months later I got a call from an attorney for the plantiffs of the class action suit against the refinery asking for permission to use the list in their court case. I said I reall didn't care if they thought it would help so be it... It turns out that the top ten list I compiled was the lead argument in the circuit court and ultimately one of the strongest tools the plantiffs had to make their case.

My point is that I never set out to fight a cause, just reflect a situation with some humor and sell adds doing it. BUT... Like you point out, WOW!!! can your writing have lasting impressions on people and society that we never even dream of.....

Tburger
05-03-2008, 07:00 PM
This is a good question (and thread). For me, there is too much significance in life already, so I write tripe. Someday I hope to write good tripe, that people will will actually read and find entertaining.

A. J. Luxton
05-03-2008, 07:22 PM
I write to evoke emotion and to spread the concepts in the back of my head so that my odd definitions of reality will become mutually accepted definitions.

I try not to write irresponsibly -- some of the basic assumptions in certain fiction, racial stereotypes etc, can either be parroted or questioned and I think it's important to question them.

That was the entirety of my answer this morning. But I just read The Accident by Elie Wiesel and I'm experiencing a sense of gravity about writing and what I might / must do with it that I haven't experienced in a long time.

PaulJohns
05-05-2008, 03:17 PM
significance of a certain composition can very much depend on the person that is reading it....it is very rare that a certain composition would please everyone...for me i write because i want to express myself....my opinion....my thoughts...!

Susan Lanigan
05-05-2008, 10:34 PM
I seriously doubt that my writing will affect someone so strongly that they will change their life on its account - part of the reason I am considering looking into composing instead as I have an ear that is not entirely tin and music gets to you more viscerally.

But for the moment I am going ahead. No stopping until I at least finish the novel :)

blacbird
05-05-2008, 11:33 PM
Evidently not much.

caw

Gary
05-05-2008, 11:44 PM
I doubt my writing will have any effect on anyone, but I do try to write so it will have no negative effects. When my kids are going through my personal effects, my manuscripts will be placed in the dumpster along with some old issues of Hot Rod magazine.

Cranky
05-05-2008, 11:45 PM
Evidently not much.

caw


That's not true, bbird.

There is stuff written here every day that impacts the people reading what others have written.

Even if they don't say anything...more people are reading what we write (on message board forums, newspaper articles, blogs, or The Great American novel) than we, the authors, may ever realize.

Kitrianna
05-06-2008, 12:05 AM
I purposely wrote my first novel with a message in it designed to inspire and I will continue to write that way. Hope, faith and love..and God (but I kept His name out of it, don't want to incite the aetheists)- the things that I could not live my life without. Well those and my husband (99% of the time on that one).

Namatu
05-06-2008, 12:16 AM
All you guys saying you write drivel and tripe - You're entertaining with your words! People need the escape. The "significance" may not bear the weight of a philosophical treatise, but then it wouldn't be as entertaining, would it?

I don't start out with the intention to write something significant or responsible. I start out to write something escapist. If significant themes develop, readers can take from that what they will. I do intentionally develop those themes, but all stories, whether they're fluffy romance or twisted horror, speak to the human experience in some fashion.

Kitrianna
05-08-2008, 01:05 AM
All you guys saying you write drivel and tripe - You're entertaining with your words! People need the escape. The "significance" may not bear the weight of a philosophical treatise, but then it wouldn't be as entertaining, would it?

I don't start out with the intention to write something significant or responsible. I start out to write something escapist. If significant themes develop, readers can take from that what they will. I do intentionally develop those themes, but all stories, whether they're fluffy romance or twisted horror, speak to the human experience in some fashion.

I loathe to ponder the idea that by promoting a heartfelt message in our writing that we are somehow prospectively making it less entertaining...I doubt that that was your intended message, but if one reads over your reply quickly, that is one's first impression. And while I agree with your point that all writing speaks to the human spirit, my question for you to ponder is...what precisely is it saying if the message is not made clear by the author and is that something that we should be saying? Just something to gnaw on.

Shweta
05-08-2008, 02:18 AM
Unfortunately, writing with a message in mind does often make writing less entertaining.

I think that's different from being willing to address issues in one's writing. I'm gonna point at Terry Pratchett as an example of extremely entertaining writing that does actually deal with real, hard issues. In thought-provoking ways (once I'm done laughing). Without messages.

I think his writing is significant.

Namatu
05-08-2008, 03:08 AM
I loathe to ponder the idea that by promoting a heartfelt message in our writing that we are somehow prospectively making it less entertaining...I doubt that that was your intended message.
Nope, it wasn't. I basically meant that even pure escapist work has value. My day-to-day has enough significance in it that when I read, I don't often want more of it. I get great value from the drivel.

Kitrianna
05-08-2008, 03:21 AM
Nope, it wasn't. I basically meant that even pure escapist work has value. My day-to-day has enough significance in it that when I read, I don't often want more of it. I get great value from the drivel.

Duly noted love. Just don't mind me too much in my virus induced cranky mood. It's been a bad couple of weeks. Now I find out that I've been grounded until next week by the hubs.

Stormhawk
05-08-2008, 04:11 AM
I don't think my writing is significant, I didn't design it to tell some big message, or change the world.

However, if I can get one person to give the creepy mechanical clockwork statues a second glance, or convince one person of the possibility of undead mermaids in the Brisbane river, then that would be cool.