If you scoured the internet today, stockpiling writing pieces from all the websites in the world, I wonder, what genre or type or nature of writing would constitute most percentage. And if we were to filter this content, by year, let’s say, 2022, what would we find? My guess is an infuriating collection of how-to-live-your-life advices, productivity hacks, news, and educational content.
For months, I found myself not writing an article, because I had nothing to say. You see, I absorbed myself in the world of fiction and poetry, and it just made sense. I mean, if it’s not anything, at least fiction and poetry can entertain. What could I possibly write in an article or an essay, that the world already did not know, or want to read more of? And if I couldn’t contribute to that output, what was the utility of my writing anyway? I would pick up my pen, jot down ideas, outlines, fill a few blank pages, crush and toss them in the dustbin, failing, give up, and just go back to writing the novel, or the poem, or the song in the making.
What is it about fiction and poetry, that excited me more than having my voice heard, having people agree with me, satisfying the ego of helping the world, or pretending I knew what I was doing? If there was a bias in me, about how a blog, or essay, or speech, or format of conveyance of one’s thoughts should be, what was it? What topic could I possibly choose that I would have valuable opinions to share on? For topic and opinions, I had none.
Then I decided to start from scratch. To forget everything, if I could, that I had learned about writing a blog or a “business piece” or a “solid copy” from all my writer friends and editors in the past. I decided to write from the heart-like when you compose your first poem in class, or submit your first story in the inter-school competition, or that initial manuscript that every agent in the world rejects. You have no idea what to write then, and nor do the other kids or newbie authors, which means you can win, a hundred percent, and you can lose, a hundred percent. Ergo, I decided to write trashy pieces, and publish them anyway.
Rule breaking is fun. Having no rules to begin with, is better.
P.S. — I am still figuring it out.
Let’s get back to the question now. Why fiction, why poetry?
I don’t understand poetry, for I haven’t read it much. I still don’t know what John Keats meant by “A thing of beauty” for heaven’s sake. But I enjoy the feel of poetry. I love writing it. I love talking in it.
God, if I was asked to step on stage,
And utter my heart out of a blank page,
That page would emit a rhythm so strange
A faltering, wondering, ideas, such great.
Like talking to children when they won’t pay attention
Or entertaining a crowd with comedy, that isn’t bright, or witty, or gumptious
I could dance around, lighting spirits in space,
Making intonations, and faces weird on the case
Telling them my travel stories, never losing the beat
If we were to die tomorrow, let’s all die increasing that musical bass!
I am not a very good poet, but I have immense love for rhythming things in normal conversations. I have this weird theory that I would die without it. I wrote my first few poems in sixth grade, and haven’t stopped since.
There is this thrill about poetic stanzas that sentences won’t speak. It probably is the truths we hide that are expressed most beautifully in the poems. It is those blanks that we leave for others to fill, so that we don’t have to take any responsibility for them. This strange idea we have, that once you create some piece of art, you could deem it imaginary. A person perhaps loves poetry, one, because it is beautiful, and two, we are too scared to reveal ourselves. Poetry heals us. There’s something about music that heals us too, and poetry is music of the letters.
But when you are constructing a proper fiction piece, things change, don’t they? Meaning is clearer, sentences are objective, plotting is logical, and then there are characters. Oh, those characters, the personalities that are in you or around you. People you have loved, people you have wanted to be, people you have wanted to kill or sneeze on or tease or barbarically declare unfit for this planet. People you want to meet, people you want to turn into, and people that you truly, madly, are inside, in the truest form possible, but nobody sees. Aah, what a pleasure it is to live in those stories. Every one of us has lived in stories, even though not everyone of us has written them.
Now, there are many reasons many writers write these stories, I won’t get into any of them. Nor will I talk about it in solid points like George Orwell, in his piece “Why I write”. I will tell you why it intrigues ME, or so far of which I have it figured out.
Of course, there isn’t one reason, that answers why we do things, there are many. I write stories because that is one activity I enjoy doing the most of all the activities I know. I also write them, because I have always wanted to write stories. Call it a coping mechanism, or an escape, like how most creative minds are formed, but I always have stories and ideas in my head, and I can’t help them forming. I can’t help them singing and calling out to me. When I don’t write, my head is cluttered and anxious and stupid. I write because I am a much nicer person to be around once I have done my writing of the day, and bitter when I have not. I write because it gives me meaning, purpose. I write because the real world is so boring. I write because I have things to say I don’t know I need to say. I write because what else would I do, if not write? I write because I have an ego of an artist, a pride I find very difficult to let go of. I write because it makes me happy. I write to convert my anxieties into beautiful stories I can live with. I write because I can be anything, say anything, travel anywhere, with nothing to stop me. I write because that’s all I know to do. I also write to leave a beautiful piece of story for the world, that should perhaps make me super rich, and help me write forever without worrying about rent, or food, or social acceptance.
This brings me to the last segment of this confused composition.
Question: Do we need more novels and poems in this world?
12,363,636 of the world’s 136 million published books are fiction. (Random unverified source, but you get the point.)
Let’s say 1% of these books are good enough, timeless, beautiful reads. Which makes it 123636 books. That’s about five times a greater number of days an average adult spends on this planet. So, even if you read a book a day, you won’t be able to read all the best 1% fiction books of all time.
Well, let’s assume people will always need stories. Tellings that aren’t real, cause again, let’s assume, maximum number of times, real is too boring, and we need improvised imagination.
Now I ask you, what kind of books do you read? Do you prefer reading stories from 500 B.C., early 1500s, or is it the books from closer centuries, like 1800s or even the contemporary 21st century?
I am guessing from experience; we don’t read ancient books as much as we read newer books. Keeping commentary on the quality of writing aside.
Every era will need to tell its story, because there WILL BE newer stories to tell. There wasn’t a widespread culture of live-in relationships, feminism, LGBTQ, quantum computing, mars missions, and so much more in 1800s. Some people did imagine it, like Jules Verne, in his “Paris in the twentieth century” tells you all about how a city would look like currently, but that was just one man’s prediction. We need to feel relevant in the books, therefore, every century, we would need more books. Which our children can read in the future to learn the “older ways” and we can read now to find our life’s answers in.
If I may also point, what couldn’t be imagined or predicted back in the old days, can be predicted now. Many scientific discoveries, engineering advances, have arisen from the imaginations of writers, artists, and musicians. Hell, the term “metaverse” was coined in a novel called SnowCrash. Although, the dystopian world then envisioned was different, but the argument stays. So yes, someone needs to dream, someone needs to write that dream, someone needs to print it, so that some kid, somewhere, reads it, gets inspired, and builds an entire disruptive technology around it.
Furthermore, we don’t know what language we will speak a century from now. It’s form and structure is unknown. We will need the languages closest to us to cherish stories to the fullest. And now because the world is changing at a quicker pace, imagine those transformations of speech and text to happen sooner. Ergo, we need writers and poets NOW.
Just because I MIGHT have given myself enough reasons of why writers and poets should survive in this world, does it guarantee they would? I mean, we all know climate is changing, and plants are dying, and water level in the oceans is rising, and yet, what stand do we take against it? Don’t we still prefer driving when we could walk? Use plastic instead of a paper cloth? Not install rain water harvesting systems in the fear of extra cost? God, I am gonna stop.
Just one thing decides this fate then. That people read. They go and buy books from book shops and read. Now, I am not saying people “should” read books from newer authors. Hell, no. Read what you like. If you think new authors are trash, contemporary fiction is bullshit, well, let them worry over it. You go find your Austen, or Nietzsche, or Arthur Conan Doyle in the bookstore. Go self-help all the way if you like.
People should read? Yes. Why? It’s good for them, their brain. The more people “think”, the better. The more enlightened the people, the better the world. So, would I ask someone to read fiction when they don’t want to? Not really.
Fiction might be dying, but so is the human race, so is hope. Ironically, it’s poetry and stories that can save souls, still.