Can Writing Change the World?
Writers have a difficult time telling whether a fan is in love with them or their work. Being egoists, most of the time they choose themselves. Try it. Tell a writer, any writer, you’re a fan of their work. See if they don’t ask for your number. It helps if you mention one of their more obscure books, so obscure no one but you and the author have ever read it. If he or she doesn’t, wait five days for the Facebook friend request.
Of course, if you’re a writer, you’ll probably disagree and tell me that writing is about far more than picking up potential partners. It’s true. Writers have Grand Ambitions. That is the reason they write. Writers change things. Read Bartolomé de las Casas or Rachel Carson. Pick up Sinclair’s The Slaughterhouse. The conquistadores are remembered by history as villains, not heroes. DDT is no longer used as a pesticide. There are laws about what you can and cannot put in sausage.
What about those authors whose work doesn’t change anything, who only write to entertain? Mysteries? Society novels? Who ever changed the world after reading Agatha Christie? Even those authors with the Grand Ambitions would have to acknowledge theirs are partial victories. Native Americans are still relegated to reservations. Even deadlier pesticides than DDT are used today. Beef may be a bit healthier, but just don’t think about the pink slime.
So then, what’s the point? Why write? Can writers change the world? Probably not. Can they change other people’s minds? Sometimes. Can they entertain? Certainly. Can they make fans fall in love with them? Hardly ever, Romeo. But either way, it doesn’t matter. Writers write because it is our last recourse—our only weapon against an apathetic world. If we can write, and we do write, it is only because we have to write. It may not always work, but it sure beats the alternative–silence.
Why do you write?