Wednesday, March 31, 2010

what matters

Lately, I've been having a hard time writing because I've been hung up on the question of what matters. I have these lofty goals of writing about important things (whatever that means;), but then I sit down in front of my computer and all that comes out is my own experience. How narcissistic, right?

But I think the key might be to write about important things in a personal way, in a way that makes other people interested in the story of it all. I think that's why I'm drawn to fiction in the first place: it's an amazingly powerful medium with which to entice people to think a certain way about something. Think of (as much as I hate this book) Uncle Tom's Cabin or Beloved or To Kill a Mockingbird (apparently I'm on a civil liberties kick;) They're all stories--wonderfully empathy-inducing stories--that shifted the world, at least part of it, because of the way they made people think differently. That's the power of story. And if I were better at it, maybe I too could shift people's minds.

It doesn't necessarily have to be fiction, of course. Nonfiction can be equally enticing, though, again, I think it's the story of it that makes it so. (Or maybe I'm just an English major nerd who finds stories in everything.) It's fitting, though, that James and I just recently saw Annie Leonard, the creator of The Story of Stuff.

For those of you who haven't heard of it, The Story of Stuff is a video that basically explains the "materials economy," the path that all the normal, household stuff we own and consume takes from creation to disposal. It's important to think about--perhaps one of the most important things to think about--since the way we currently use and dispose of our resources in this world is so wholly unsustainable, not to mention heinously unconscionable. But who stops to care about how that water bottle in her hand or the headphones in her ears are created and where they go when she gets rid of them? Who thinks beyond the initial price tag and the ultimate heave into the garbage can? Probably not a lot of people, until you make it into a story like Anne Leonard has done. And now millions of people around the world are thinking about the goods they consume, all because now there's a narrative in their heads that has made it accessible.

I guess that's my goal. There's important stuff out there (and okay, less important but also interesting stuff, too:), and I want to be able to write about it in a way that makes people think, in a way that at least causes someone to pause if not actually change their mind. That's the goal I've tentatively set for myself. Maybe not on this blog, or maybe not all the time, but I want to use my writing to contribute to what matters, whatever that might be.

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