A story has meaning and a purpose no matter whether it is fully written (by you or by another) or in the early stages of crafting. A written story has the power to free your imagination, and sometimes, your soul while a work in progress gives you the authority to conjure whatever you wish and to find solace. Reading and writing have always been an escape for me. Perhaps I dream too big for this small life and simple body that I have been granted so I have to create new worlds within which I pin my dreams and bring them to a form of realization. As a fairly optimistic human, I don’t believe this to be true. But I could be fooling myself.
Nevertheless, I often find myself reading and writing to find peace. Writing allows me to escape, to forget disappointments, to find a place where I feel like I have some control and where I could rediscover a simpler joy. That’s not to say that my life is full of sorrow and darkness. On the contrary, there are lots of things for which I am thankful and happy about. But sometimes, you just get into a funk and the only way to get away from it is to escape from yourself and the only way you can find control is to create a world in which you are in control.
I think the best example of exhibiting and exploring control as a writer is the I am Number 4 series by Pittacus Lore. He literally writes himself into the stories. There is an ancient figure that the Loriens refer to as Pittacus Lore who is their savior/leader/father. In our reality, he is the writer, the veritable god and creator. In the reality of the story, he is the father etc etc. It’s so ingenious, it cracks me up every time I think about it. Pittacus Lore has crafted a reality in which he is heralded as a metaphorical and literal hero. And if that doesn’t help your ego, nothing will!
Like Pittacus Lore, a story in progress allows me to wield power that I do not have in the real world (though I have yet to write myself into a story to the same degree as Pittacus). I get to decide what the outcome is instead of that stoic, masked entity, fate (if you believe in fate. Personally, I’m on the fence). If I want my characters to suffer, they suffer. If I want them to find triumph, they succeed and accomplish their greatest goals. For some reason, I find comfort in this power. Like everyone else in the real world, I don’t always have the opportunity to see things come to fruition that I have dreamed or desired. But in the realm of a story, I can make my wildest dreams come true.
The movie Ruby Sparks depicts the supreme and sometimes disturbing power that the writer has over his characters. I once heard (or read – not sure which) that if your characters aren’t suffering, then you’re not doing your job as a writer. Obviously you don’t want to bore your reader, but when the writer controls Ruby through his writing after she has manifested in reality, it turns into a borderline abusive relationship. So perhaps writing is like projecting, but in a more therapeutic way (and hopefully not abusive like in the movie). This scene was both disturbing (because of the affected abuse that occurs) and poignant (because it reminded me of the power that a writer has and the potentially infinite reach of pen and ink).
The completed story allows me to live the life of another. The plot may have been determined by someone else, but I still get the experience of being someone else and of living their dreams and failures. I extend outward beyond the existence that I have crafted for myself and in my imagination I become a warrior or a queen or a monster. These experiences are gifts that I receive, that all readers receive if they want them. They are constant. They are always there and you can be pretty sure that whatever you are wanting or needing, there’s a story out there that will fulfill you.
A story can provide you with the therapy you need on either end of the process: reading or writing. A story is never static, even after it is written. People find what they need in a story, even if as a writer, you didn’t know you put it in there. And while you are writing, you can find a sense of peace in ways you had never planned or intended. Interpretation makes writing and reading stories a universal thing and it is easy to find what you are searching for in the depths of the pages of a book. As a writer and a reader, I find it comforting to remember these facts. If I do my job right, I can bring comfort/enjoyment/happiness to others (well, only if I let them read what I’ve written!) and to myself.