Someone once asked me what I was going to do with my life and when I said writing, they asked me how that would help people. I don’t remember what I said, but I remember feeling annoyed. They seemed skeptical that I was doing anything worthwhile, and I remember feeling like you don’t get it, you don’t even read books.
But I also thought that maybe they had a point. Some people want to cure cancer, and I just wanted to write novels. It seemed kind of frivolous.
I don’t think it is though. I think the stories you are exposed to, whether through books, movies, or real life, determine the way you think about your life and ultimately what sort of person you become.
Stories tell you that life is narrative. That it’s not just meaningless day after meaningless day. That all these moments tie together into a whole. Moments that might seem pointless right now are a part of something bigger.
Stories tell you that you can be more than you think you are. That there are things worth fighting for. That you don’t have to just stand on the sidelines.
And stories tell you that you’re not alone. I want to write young adult novels, and I think that age is the time when you’re most vulnerable. You don’t know who you are and you feel like everyone else in the world has their life together. But then you read a book and you recognize yourself in it. This character thinks the same thoughts you do, has the same fears or personality quirks; they’re not any braver or any better than you.
But their life comes together in a story, a tapestry of a million threads that makes a picture, and yours will too.
You can be a hero too. You can fight things that are wrong. You can learn and grow and be anything you want.
And whatever you are right now, that’s okay. Characters don’t start out the same as they are at the end. Not everything happens in the first chapter, or even the fifth and sixth. But those chapters are still important. You’d only have half a book if you cut them out. Stories take time, and life does too.