The stories writers create influence readers, but writers must be wary of their created kryptonite.
Essays, stories, and books can change people. This is why books are one of the first things destroyed whenever a ruler wants to manipulate his people.
Books are stolen from homes, piled in the streets and often burned. Books are taken from library shelves and out of classrooms. Throughout the world at different points in history, women have been kept from reading. Parents will too sometimes take books from children and teens, claiming they are too young to read about this or that.
People know words and stories hold power.
A bit of backstory.
Change perspectives and hearts and you can change the world. One of the most effective ways to get in the heads and hearts of people is through the written word.
The reason Hitler desired to destroy books about Jews or books written by Jews is because he didn’t want Jews to be seen as sympathetic, dimensional, intelligent people. He sought to do the opposite. Therefore, he destroyed their stories and books.
Beloved is one of the most banned books in America. Its author, Toni Morrison delivers a question that is very difficult to face. Does a mother have a right to kill a child that would have otherwise become a slave? Why is this book banned in libraries and schools, even in 2023, because it sheds light on the horrors of American history. It illustrates the pain and suffering a mother might consider to save her child from slavery.
People in power know very well how story can affect and change the minds of readers. Banning books, keeping women or minorities from writing, is a solid way to control the masses.
The power of story.
Humans have been using story to communicate since the dawn of our existence. Story takes readers (granted, I know story was first written as pictures on caves and rocks) into a time, place, with a myriad of characters.
Stories teach, entertain, and enlighten listeners.
Story, when done well, helps readers see things from other perspectives. Readers become educated about people and places through characters. Readers get to feel and understand what it is like to live in a different time and place. We get to feel what it might be like to live in Germany during WWII, or in Ukraine now through someone’s written word.
We get to empathize with others. Having the ability to create a passage to empathy is power. People sometimes like to think in terms of us and them. Story quickly shows that the “them” is a lot like “us.” This is humbling and it is full of insights into another person or group of people. Changing the world one feeling or thought at a time.
As writers, we have trained ourselves to see details, subtleties, and nuances. With being able to see, we write and our words can affect others. Subtleties and nuances can create beauty and laughter. What an amazing power. We all could use more beauty and power.
It can be small, like creating a smile on our reader’s face.
This smile can be directly from a writer’s influence. This smile, this small moment in time, has the ability to change the reader’s day, how they interact with their family, or their coworkers. Subtleties can also bring empathy, in a world where empathy and compassion are strongly needed.
Through story and nuances and subtleties, we can experience anger, and if this anger is directed toward change there is huge power. Readers might seek more information about genocide, or abuse, or war, or immigration.
Where are writers’ weaknesses?
With all superpowers, there is always kryptonite.
Kryptonite can burn.
With all things powerful there is a huge desire for the masses to claim it as good or bad. Being sensitive, as many writers are, we might pay too close attention to society’s voices: Am I talented? Or not talented? Am I a good or a bad writer?
Writers pay too close attention to what others think of their work. This praise or lack thereof often affects our work. Thinking in terms of good or bad prevents writers from writing, from creating.
Sometimes it feels as we if are locked in a room with kryptonite, and its power drains us. We watch our number of likes, claps, reviews, and royalties move upward like a horrific math problem we can’t solve.
If writers can train themselves, which I believe they can, we can glance at those numbers like we do the weather, taking note. The only information it gives is whether we need to grab a coat or not.
Only you can determine if what you are writing is needed in our world. Superman doesn’t ponder what needs to be done, or where his strength needs to be used, he acts.
So, write we still will do. We wake early or stay up late. We miss social events. And often when we are at social events, or our children’s sports games we are listening and watching to see where our stories are needed. There is strength and power in being present in the world and then sharing about it on the screen, on paper, in a book.
Hold your head high and your pen tightly.
If your words truly affected only one person, would you still write them? We know as a superhero, if we were to save only one person, we would.
Write on, my dear superhero.