I don’t read in order to escape from reality. I read because I believe that stories can teach us about who we are and why we do the things that we do. I believe that stories bring to light the things that we hide and often forget. They are the experiences of life that we keep stuffed at the back of our closets, in a box in the garage, or buried in our grandparent’s backyard. They are experiences and emotions that we hide in our subconscious, that appear in our dreams, and that we forget in the morning. I believe that these hidden things should emerge in fiction. Stories should force us to dig up whatever we are concealing, whatever we have forgotten. In the private confines of our minds, stories should bring us back to the pieces of humanity that are stowed away. With my own writing, I hope to bring my readers back to the experiences that molded them into who they are, and that made them most aware of life.
My goal as a writer is to cause my reader to gain a better understanding of life and themselves. This year, I wrote a story about a woman’s daily struggle with intense physical pain caused by arthritis, and the emotional wounds that it inflicted upon her marriage. The reader follows Claire on the day that she tries to change what her and her husband’s life has become because of her illness. She pushes her body way beyond its limits. In the evening, when she tries to make love to her husband, she is not physically able to go through with it. So, while at the beginning of the story, she is determined to make Rick remember what it was like before the arthritis hit, in the end, she realizes that this is simply impossible. With the last scene of the story, I attempted to break the reader’s heart. Her feelings of giving up on herself, and on the stability her relationship with Rick come out at the end. She abandons all hope. With this, I strive to bring to the reader’s attention the feeling of hopelessness that we often push away and ignore to keep ourselves afloat. I do this to remind them that this kind of deep despair exists. To remind them that it’s what makes life real and tangible.
Stories should be reminders of what we forget about humanity in the midst of the business of life. I want my stories to cause readers to remember their childhood, the things they loved about family gatherings, the things they hated about their high school, what they felt when their grandfather passed away, what they said to their mothers in their angriest moment. We often forget to stop and think about what life does, and what we do in the heart of it, and this must be reflected in fiction. So whether we’re young, or old, or somewhere in between, when we come to literature, let us learn something.
Or else, let us not read it at all.