Have you ever read a piece of writing that had such a powerful effect on you that it renders you incapable of doing anything but sit there and think about it?
I hadn’t, until today. All I’m going to say about it is that it is by one of the authors on the Authonomy website. I won’t post a link because the reasons it had such an effect are very personal and, to even try to explain, would leave me looking like a crazy person.
So why mention it then? Well, because it has made me think about my own writing. Why do I write?
I like to think that my main motivation is the enjoyment it gives me and, for the most part, it is. But there is some part of me that would like my words to make a difference.
I would love to be able to write something that powerful, something that could actually shake the core beliefs of the person who was reading it.
Until a couple of hours ago I would have said I was deluding myself if I thought for one minute that my writing could ever be that good. In fact, after reading that piece, I was left feeling that I have no business calling myself a writer at all. I questioned the quality of my words, my subject matter and even my characters.
But then I asked myself, what it was that had moved me so profoundly about that excerpt?
The writing was of a high standard, the choice of words was good, the characters were strong and it was well paced – everything you would expect from good fiction. But what really moved me was how this writer’s character broke through the barrier of my own judgements.
For the first time in my life, I could see inside the mind of a person from a background I had no understanding of. And it hit me like a kick in the teeth.
Now, I know nothing about the author, and I have no idea what her intentions were when she wrote the book. Perhaps she intended to put a strong message out there, I don’t know. Or perhaps, like me, she just intended to tell the story of a character that popped up in her head in the hope that someone would enjoy reading it as much as she enjoyed writing it.
What I do know is, it moved me because it challenged some of my own personal beliefs. And I also know that I will think very carefully about my own writing in the future. You never know when something you write might change a person’s perceptions forever.
I very much doubt it will happen with anything I’ve written to date, but if just one person is moved by one of my future characters in the way I was moved by Sam I will be glad I took up writing.
Fiction that has the power to change perceptions has the power to change the world.