It’s a rough world out there, folks. The pandemic. The political situation in the U.S. and elsewhere is troubling no matter which side of the metaphorical fence you fall on. The economy’s taking a beating. And one of the things that would help make it all more bearable — getting together with a big bunch of friends and having a three-day party — is one of the things you can’t do right now.
Today should have been the first day of Narrativity 2020. Our second year, in which people could greet the friends they made last year as well as meeting new ones, and then settle down for a nice long geek-out about storytelling in all its facets. And we will still have that opportunity; we’ll just have to wait a little longer for it.
In the meantime, a lot of people have been saying that they’re having trouble focusing enough to write, or even read, especially anything challenging. That’s understandable; everybody’s stressed right now, and there’s so much going on that it will eat your brain if you let it.
But there’ve also been people saying that, with everything that’s going on, they don’t feel like they should be writing right now. That it’s the wrong time for that plague novel, or that their silly adventure story seems too trivial with the world in the state it’s in. That telling stories just doesn’t seem important enough, and that they should be spending their time on something more important.
And to that I say: No, telling stories is important; in fact, it’s one of the most important things we can do. Telling stories is part of what makes us human, and helps to keep us human. And the more troubled the times, the more important stories become.
A story can be a light in a dark place, or a hand to hold in a lonely hour. It can be a respite from a reality that’s too grim to deal with right now, or an inspiration to make that reality better. It can be profound, or just plain fun. Or even both at once. And all of these things have value.
We need stories. Stories help us celebrate in good times, and offer us catharsis in bad times. Stories can comfort us, teach us, inspire us, show us new ideas, and remind us of vital truths we already knew, but may have lost sight of in the hustle of day-to-day life. We need stories. And in a time of crisis, when many people’s sources of support, of comfort, even of distraction, have been disrupted, we need them all the more.
Your reader might be a beleaguered ER nurse, desperate for distraction after an exhausting shift. They might be a parent stuck at home with bored children, searching for something they can enjoy together. They might be a senior citizen, isolated and hungry for some human connection. They might be any number of ordinary people, getting through the day as best they can, who could really use a reminder that there’s more to life than their current struggles.
So if you’re a writer (or a storyteller of any stripe), write your story. Whether it’s a dystopian post-apocalyptic saga, or a fluffy little adventure story, write it. Write your cozy mystery, or your spicy romance, or your deep exploration of the human soul. Whatever your story, if it’s compelling enough to you to write it, there’s someone out there for whom it’ll be equally compelling to read. Your story may be just what they need to catch their breath, find their center, and carry on.
So keep calm, and tell stories.