What’s the Point in Writing?

Posted: July 23, 2012 in Writing

I’ve recently gotten into a discussion about the purpose of writing – both my own and that of better known pieces. As writers, we all know there are several types of naysayers out there. The ones who think it isn’t work, that they could easily write a book. The ones who think it’s useless, that it has no merit. The ones who just don’t see the point.

Sometimes I think they have a valid argument. Why do I write? What purpose does my writing have? What am I trying to accomplish here? It’s easy to point out some of the big names and say, “She was trying to convey a message about hope when one thinks all is lost,” or “He was trying to show us something about ourselves as a society.” But my writing? I hate to say it, but it’s just not that deep.

The discussion came up after I mentioned I started watching the show Supernatural. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s about two brothers who go all across the United States in search of demons, ghosts, and other things that go bump in the night. They’re hunters, and their job is to eradicate the country of evil.

This person just didn’t get it. “Why waste your time on a show like that? What good does it do to watch it?” Admittedly, she has a point. Most television doesn’t teach us much, if anything at all. Most of the time it just ends up putting money in the pockets of the already-rich. Most books fly by under the radar unless you’re lucky enough to make it big. And if you’re book is picked up by the masses, chances are it’s full of enough fodder to keep them entertained, but not necessarily informed of the things in life that matter. There are always exceptions, but that’s just what they are – exceptions.

I did a similar post a while ago about on why I write horror, but this is something a little different. This person is a relative, a close one at that, and absolutely means nothing against me. But how can I make her understand? How can I explain to her that silly shows like Supernatural or silly books like Harry Potter are important? That they add something meaningful to the world? That we need them?

What is their purpose?

I honestly don’t have the answer, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  1. Zen says:

    Well… while I think everyone needs a dose of reality, I think they also need a dose of fiction and imagination. This breaks the routine, enables them to think outside the box, reminds them that it’s okay to dream and fantasize about things… if you’re all reality and no imagination, you won’t have many layers or dimensions. You wouldn’t be knowledgeable about things you can only pick up from books. In a way, books keep you grounded too, because they enable you to live through experiences that you’ve never hand, and remind you of what you have.

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  3. EM Castellan says:

    I think people who dismiss fantasy in literature and movies/TV shows as “silly” and useless are people who haven’t actually been paying attention. The fact that these stories take place in imaginary worlds or include supernatural elements doesn’t mean that they are devoyed of depth. There are people writing theses (THESES!) on Buffy and its influences in philosophy and social studies. There is a lot to analyse in Supernatural about how to deal with “real-life” topics such as loss, family ties, duty and freedom of choice. I can’t even begin to explain why the Harry Potter books are awesome in this comment. These stories do teach things, even if they’re wrapped in a silly cloak of magic and monsters hunting.

    • Karen Rought says:

      That’s absolutely true. I tried to explain that, but I couldn’t quite get the words out right. I’ve forgotten all about those Buffy theses. That’s one of the best written shows I’ve ever watched. There are so many lessons to be learned from what Buffy goes through. Excellent example. Thank you.

  4. Stacy Green says:

    I think the point in writing is whatever you make it. If it’s something you love to do, that’s all the matters. The end goal of publication is great, but if you don’t love the process, then it means nothing. For me, it’s something I love to do and the only thing I ever really wanted to do with my life.

  5. Fabio Bueno says:

    Loved it! People never ask me that, but your post got me thinking.
    Writing is like breathing: not only it’s essential, but I don’t know how _not_ to do it.
    As for the “silly” shows, books, and movies: it’s hard to create a piece of entertainment that is fun and engaging. It’s difficult to grab the attention of a reader or spectator and transport her to another world. It requires a lot of skill. And, sometimes, that escapism is exaclty what the audience want.

    • Karen Rought says:

      I totally agree with your first statement. I feel completely off, totally not myself, when I’m not writing. It really is like breathing – if I stop, I might just die. (Which sounds dramatic, but I’m sure you know what I mean.) And escapism is definitely the number one reason why I read or watch TV and movies. Thanks for the comment, Fabio!

  6. Julie Glover says:

    I didn’t start writing fiction until later in life, probably because I didn’t think I had anything weighty to say. I was presuming that my books needed to be like Tolstoy or Austen to be worthy of the effort. However, I discovered that there is much value in lighter fare as well.

    For instance, with movies, while I loved Schindler’s List and think everyone should see that movie, I also adore Raiders of the Lost Ark. They both deal with the Nazi era, obviously with different focuses. One is serious, one is fun. One is thought-provoking, one is action-packed. If I want to delve into the intensity of that time, I’ll watch Schindler. But I adore the escapism and “take that, you Nazi!” feel of Raiders.

    Entertaining writing can shed light on relationships and universal challenges we face, help us escape the darker side of life (even if it’s horror you write), and give us hope for good things in life. If we can’t enjoy “silly” TV or movies or books, let’s also close down all of the amusement parks, arcades, dance halls, etc. that don’t have profound, lasting consequences.

    OR we can crack open a great read and get lost in its pages for a while!

    • Karen Rought says:

      That’s such a good point and I totally agree with you. I live for that escapism that allows me to forget that magic doesn’t exist for roughly 43 minutes at a time.

  7. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with providing entertainment with no deeper purpose. Humans are hard wired to need fun and relaxation in order to function our best when we’re working.

    As for Harry Potter, the stories and characters transcended the details of the magical world to tell a story of a boy who longed for a family that loved him, who just wanted to fit in, who struggled to figure out the line between right and wrong, and who learned that some things are worth fighting and dying for. You don’t need to be a witch or wizard to relate and to make it meaningful. The lessons in Harry Potter, while secondary to an entertaining story, are what made it so loved by people who wouldn’t otherwise read a fantasy. It’s also what makes them re-readable.

    • Karen Rought says:

      Absolutely agree! One of the best things about Harry Potter is that you can read it purely for entertainment or for that deeper level. I love books and movies/TV shows like that, but I agree that sometimes you just need that pure entertainment factor.

  8. Charles says:

    Writing is critical to society! For the writer, it is a natural and healthy way to express him or her self and it can even be therapeutic and liberating. The reader receives a new perspective, learns new and interesting things, and can be inspired by the words of others. Never become discouraged. Those who say it’s a waste of time just don’t get it. BTW, it’s nice to meet you. Look forward to future posts. -Charles

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