I grew up in a time when Geordi LaForge was constantly telling us about the importance of reading (and rainbows apparently.) Honestly, I didn’t really pay attention. You can probably tell from that first sentence. Yes, I know, it was LeVar Burton and Reading Rainbow had nothing to do with arched variegation in the sky. The point is, it took me way too long to understand the value of reading, and even longer to fully appreciate the power of fiction.
I was a weird kid, and I did read, but I preferred learning about ancient Egypt from history books and reading about Physics from science books. I didn’t really care about magical adventures or precocious teens solving mysteries. During my teenage and young adult years, I developed a deep appreciation for Comic books, likely because they fit my attention span, but that was about it. I also had a bad habit of reading only half of a book and losing interest leaving the characters in peril with no remorse.
Interestingly enough, I became a storyteller myself. Maybe sticking to a novel and finishing it just didn’t sit well with my undiagnosed ADD. Whatever the case, I have learned that fiction, whether it’s in the pages of a book or on screen, truly has power to transform people’s lives.
Reading Fiction Changes Your Reality
Enjoying a novel or a bit of TV is often referred to as escapism. This is an accurate presentation, but not a complete one. While it does provide an escape, it also offers an opportunity to open your mind and soul allowing fresh perspectives. I’ll give you an example. Reading and writing fiction became a more important part of my life when my mother died in September of 2022. Is that escapism? sure, but it’s also a way to process the struggles of our own lives through a protective lens.
What kind of books have I been reading during some of the most challenging parts of my life? Happy stories where everything turns out alright? Epic fantasies where wizards save the day with a flick of their wand? Nope. Stephen King. Reading about the challenges of characters facing darkness helps greatly to address the shadows that fall across my own path. I’m sure that many can identify with this and have used stories therapeutically whether they know it or not.
Writing Fiction Can be Transformative
Writing fiction is another form of escapism that runs a little deeper. On the surface, it might seem like “you’re not happy with you’re reality, so you write a different one.” Of course, there is often an element of this, however, I find that writing fiction allows me to not only express myself in ways that I can’t in the normal everyday world, but it allows me to uncover or rediscover parts of myself long hidden.
In the process of writing, I find myself learning about myself through my interaction with fictional characters and worlds. When you write a story, you bond with the characters you create and find that they speak with elements of your own voice or the voices of those who have had an impact on your life. In this way, your own writing can teach you about who you are and how the influences in your life have paved the path you are on.
Currently, I’m ghostwriting a comic book series, co-writing a graphic novel that will be announced in the coming months, working on a novel and collection of short stories, and putting together my second poetry book. Each of these projects brings out a piece of myself that I didn’t necessarily know was there, and that is the true power of fiction.
What about you? Has fiction changed your reality?
Michael J. Snow is a writer fueled by anxiety and a curiosity about the corners of life he hasn’t touched. Check out his blog to see what he’s been up to.