The very last question Don Maass asked us at the end of the Writer Unboxed UnConference earlier this month, was:
How do you want your novel to change the world?
“The purpose of writing a novel is not to get published. Every person has a story and purpose, a powerful message,” Don said, then asked us to write the question at the top of an index card. Then, to answer the question…and keep the card near where we write, to look at often.
More about that later.
First, let me ask you a question. Do you think that writing fiction is a worthwhile—a really important—endeavor? Even if you don’t get published—ever? Even if no one else ever reads a word you write?
As a child I was told I would be a scientist, a doctor to be specific. It wasn’t that simple, though. My parents told me that if I didn’t “do something with my life that helped people,” specifically helped people in a very direct way, I had wasted my life. Not my abilities. Or talent. My life. This was a given. Not a question to be discussed. A given.
And a recipe for failure.
Perhaps needless to say, when I went to college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I finished three years of pre-med, then switched to journalism, and that’s when I realized: I wanted to write. To be a writer. It was the only thing that made me feel good. It was the only thing that made any sense to me.
But how the hell was it saving anyone or anything?
Fast Forward a Few Years
I finished my journalism degree and started working as a business and technical writer for a large corporation. It paid the bills, but then a funny thing happened. I started writing stories to pass the day. I’d send stories to my friend Carolyn, in the next cubicle over. A story about a man who worked in a box factory, a story about woman who had a Baby X, a story about a woman who finds a workmate dead in his cubicle. Murdered. [Read more…]