In this post on CreativInfluence, I talked about what it takes to write, and a brief recap would bring us to four key elements I’ve mentioned: awareness, patience, discipline, and courage. These four essential elements that a writer should have will be, however, for naught, if we lose track of the meaning and purpose of writing. I’ll talk about that today, though I did touch on that in brief, in the aforementioned post.

To start, I will bring in, again, J.G. Ballard, with a brief quote about the writer:

We live inside an enormous novel… The fiction is already there. The writer’s task is to invent the reality.

– J.G. Ballard

Ballard’s quote implies that reality is fiction, shaped by what our environment – the media materials, mostly – feeds us. Television shows, books, music, art, video games – these all have a hand in what we perceive to be real. Ironically, the implication that may be lifted from Ballard’s quote is that what is not real – the fiction – makes us determine what is real – the reality. Things get muddled up, of course, and ultimately we are left with a sense of disorientation. Meanwhile, we also have a quote from Gustave Flaubert:

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.

– Gustave Flaubert

Flaubert’s quote implies a possibility in the variations of reality, focusing on what you, the writer, believe in. What you perceive to be the truth, and if your perception of truth weighs a lot for your reader, then it will help shape his or her truth, based on your fiction.

But what am I getting at? Whether or not your writing reaches an extremely huge audience, your writing will be able to affect the reader. Furthermore, what you write, if we consider Flaubert’s and Ballard’s quotes, will be responsible in helping shape reality and fiction, and perhaps cross or blur the lines between the two. In short, it means that writing is a huge responsibility. 

We hear speeches from presidents, from key figures in the society. We’re glued to our television screens and celebrate the brilliant, witty, humanizing remarks of big figures like Taylor Swift, and react negatively to people who say something that goes against our beliefs and morals. We listen to speakers who are renowned in their respective fields. We read biographies and autobiographies, extol the virtues of individuals who are living our dreams. These are all texts, written by one or more people, and they affect us, even in the smallest of ways. We get inspired by the texts we read and experience. They stir something within us. 

So here’s a neat list of what it means to write. Writing means that…

    • You must be willing to teach. Whether you’re teaching truths you believe in, or truths that have been passed down to you, values that you’ve picked up along the way, based on experience, writing means you will be handing down something valuable to your reader, in the form of a text. Writing means you will be augmenting the reader’s knowledge, or challenging what he or she already knows. If you know any teachers, you are probably already aware that they have a huge responsibility in their hands. Writing is one form of teaching, and being a writer means being a teacher.
    • You must be willing to be taught. Perhaps you already know this, because of course, learning is not just a one-way transfer of information. The teacher is also a student, and likewise, the writer – as the teacher – must also be willing to be taught by the reader – the student, if you will. Writing cannot spring from an indefinite space, a vacuum, and to be able to craft something people can relate to, to be able to craft something effective, the writer must be able to learn to be taught these things that he or she needs to write effectively.
    • You must be open-minded, or are willing to open your mind. Fiction is anchored on experiences of different people, and these experiences vary. Different choices have different outcomes. Permutations exist. But there are outcomes to events that are hard to swallow, and may go against your comfort zone. However, being a writer means being able to open your mind to the slightly uncomfortable possibilities that alternative outcomes present. You must be able to look past your own biases and understand why other things happen. You must be able to digest new possibilities and different value systems, without necessarily letting go or compromising your own.
    • You must be willing to sacrifice. Writing is not a physically exhausting act the way physical exercise is. It’s not extremely taxing to the mind. But it’s exhausting if you sit in your chair, thinking for eyes, writing and rewriting, revising, throwing away sheets, getting frustrated by block. It eats up a lot of time, and maybe you’ll be, as a writer, compelled to pass up opportunities just to finish your project. That means missed dinners, sleepless nights, and missing out hanging with friends. But that also means dedication to the craft, and the desire to improve. It means you put a lot of value in writing, to be able to sacrifice other things. Not always, of course.

Writing means a lot. It’s hard work, it’s tiring, it’s bound to frustrate you and anger you to no end. Leaving stories with endings dangling in mid-air will haunt you for days. Opening yourself up to a lot of new ideas can be overwhelming. But it’s all value-adding, and in the end, really, ultimately, what writing means is this (and we can sum up the points here): it means to challenge, to disrupt, but also to build and to craft, perceived truths and values, coming out in the end with a whole that moves the reader. Writing is influencing, writing is inspiring, and writing is incredibly enriching and fulfilling.