I had a discussion the other day with some fellow writers about how we all felt about writing. Did we see it as a profound and worthy endeavour? Did we see it as a bit of fun, a hobby? Where did we place it in terms of importance in our lives? I found that I was maybe in the minority of thinking on this one, which I found interesting.
I’d like to point out that very little of my thinking is set in stone. I’m pretty fluid with a lot of opinions (apart from when it comes to signalling on a roundabout in which case EVERYONE, WIHTOUT FAIL, SHOULD ALWAYS USE THEIR INDICATORS. Oh, and get in the right lane. That’s important, too. And when it comes to sugar allotments for hot drinks, but don’t get me started on that). Anyway, having discussions of this nature always stimulates my thinking processes. Quite often, I come away from them convinced I’m abnormal. Which is fine. I don’t mind being abnormal
But let’s get back on track. Is writing important to me? Yes. Undeniably and unequivocally Yes. Do I think it’s an important endeavour for me? Yes. Should it be the most important endeavour in my life? Maaaaybe? See, I’m already roaming into uncertain territory here. I can’t stick “writer” on the same level as brain surgeon or any other life-saving profession. I can’t pretend I’m doing something so important it trumps other people’s day jobs. Now, I’m only talking about my writing here, before anyone gets any bees in their bonnets. I know there are plenty of books out there that have saved lives, or have had a profound impact on their readers. But I write commercial, fairly mainstream, fiction. I’d like to think I can be profound sometimes (I’m not), or have a vital message to convey in the themes I choose to write about (only at a stretch). So the conclusion I ended up making was I’m trying to, first and foremost, entertain. I’m in the business of entertainment. Sometimes, when I’m reading up on the Oscars or some very important semi-final football game, I often find myself thinking things like ‘But they’re being paid millions of dollars to play dress-up in front of a camera’ or ‘they’re just punting about an inflated bit of plastic on a field’. Why is this stuff given such ESTEEM? It’s entertainment, pure and simple, and there’s a place for that, definitely. It makes people happy, and that’s brilliant. Millions of people sit down every week to watch the newest episode of Game of Thrones – me included – and we spend the next week discussing it with our colleagues and friends. Do we need it? I’d argue not. It brings enjoyment to our lives. It may even teach us some things (don’t feed a newborn baby to a pack of dogs, for example. That’s a truly despicable thing to do). But no, it’s one of those pleasures that we’re lucky to have. But I couldn’t call it essential.
Am I a better person for writing? Maybe. It does help with empathy, having to write yourself into other people’s shoes all the time. I still think my parents deserve 90% of the credit for making me a decent person, though. Even psychopaths, if brought up in a loving, supportive home, lead a safe and fulfilling life that contributes to society. Not that I’m saying I’m a psychopath or anything. Only mildly sociopathic at the very worst. So, yes, writing helps keep me sane. It gives me purpose. And that’s where I mark its importance: on an individual scale. Outside of that, for me, it’s entertainment. And I’m eternally grateful people enjoy being entertained so much.
(Current reads: Fellside by M.R. Carey / listening to The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig.)