We can all think of books that changed the world.
And how could any such list be complete without groundbreaking tomes like Bachelor host Chris Harrison’s novel The Perfect Letter, a sultry romance about an upstart New York book editor sent into a tailspin by her boss/boyfriend’s marriage proposal who is then scandalously tempted by her ex-boyfriend and ex-con Jake Rhodes at a Texas writer’s conference, and…
Ahem sorry. Where was I? Oh yes.
Books can cause masses of people to see the new world in a new way. They can persuade people of the validity of new viewpoints. They can catapult people into action.
But there’s another subtle but collectively more powerful way that writing changes the world:
Writing changes the world by changing writers.
Here’s what I mean.
How writing changes the writer
As an editor, I have worked with victims of sexual assault and child abuse, with war veterans, with people struggling with divorces and family abandonment.
Something incredible happens as these writers channel their feelings into their writing. They are able to transubstantiate some of that pain into an essay or book they feel good about.
That’s not to say that anyone’s problems go away because they write or that writing is a substitute for therapy (only therapy is therapy) or that writing is some kind of cure-all. Writing can also advance some of the worst ills.
But when writers take pain and try to turn it into something meaningful, think about how miraculous that is. They’re taking some of the darkest things humans can experience and transforming them into objects they can feel proud of.
Even if your pain or reflections are more everyday than the trauma of an assault victim or veteran, writing can still help you process your feelings, your problems, and tease out those diffuse feelings you have about the world.
Writing is one of the most incredible tools we have for taking darkness and creating light.
It’s one of the reasons I love editing books so much, especially now that I’m free as a freelance editor to take on projects regardless of their mainstream commercial viability. If I can help authors improve their work and feel that much better about what they’ve produced, it’s a truly meaningful experience for both of us.
The readers who benefit
Collectively, writers all over the world are dissipating their darkness through writing. They’re turning hardships into learning, pain into positivity, and inviting other people to see what they’ve felt and view the world through their eyes.
And they just might be helping others too.
J.K. Rowling recently tweeted about how the Harry Potter books helped her as much as a reader who tweeted her thanks:
Dragging myself through another bout of severe #depression and re-reading the #HarryPotter series to strengthen my Patronus. A million thanks to @jk_rowling for the magical escape that’s always there when it’s needed ❤
— Sally Burns (@joosylemon) March 19, 2018
Those stories saved their author, too. Nothing makes me happier than to think that they went out into the world to do the same for other people. Keep that Patronus powerful ✨ https://t.co/d9ByD4WtCo
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) March 19, 2018
If other people who end up reading the books are changed too, all the better.
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.
Art: The Astronomer by Johannes Vermeer