As an aspiring writer and an Arts student people don’t always take me seriously (one uncle made the same joke every Christmas about rolling up my Arts degree to use as a telescope and find a job, a couple of engineers I went to high school with suggested I use it as toilet paper). Even so, these things don’t usually bother me (If they did I wouldn’t be here). A few weeks ago, however, a simple careless remark, not laced with any intentional malice, got under my skin. Someone asked me what I might do my thesis on. I told her female relationships in fairy tales. She was surprised and asked “What do you hope to get out of it?” so far so good, but then she clarified by saying, “As a practical person, I find it hard to understand how someone could put so much time and energy into something that doesn’t add anything to the world.” Ouch.
It took me a whole day to stop hating her and actually consider what she said, and I’m glad I did. It’s probably a good idea for everybody no matter their passion or career to step back and think about why they do what they do, what they get out of it and what it adds to the world or if it needs to. Here’s my long winded answer…
I know I don’t write just for me, because I like it and it makes me happy. Of course it does those things, but if that was all it would be a hobby and I wouldn’t have a desperate need to be published and share my writing with people I’d never met. This suggests to me that it does ‘add something’ probably in a more abstract way than my questioner meant but who cares. Does it add enjoyment, pleasure, entertainment? Yes, all art forms do (there’s someone out there for everything). But that’s not all they do, and I’m including theory writing in this which some may argue isn’t entertaining at all. I believe the most important thing art and writing does is prompt thought. It leads to communication and shared ideas which in turn leads to development, change, creation and much more. So I know what I do ‘adds’. It adds food for thought, stimulation, and ideas. But what do I get out of it what did I want to achieve?
My cousin studies conservation and while she often considers it a hopeless case she also has some very tangible ideas about what she’d like to achieve. She is passionate about her goals even if they seem out of reach.
I’m passionate too. I’m passionate about conservation (though not to the extent of my cousin), I am avidly against breed specific legislation, I am passionate about equality (race, gender, sexual orientation, and probably things I don’t even know about), I believe that everyone should have a voice even if I wish some people wouldn’t exercise that right. And more than anything I am passionate in my belief that communication (particularly writing) is the greatest power anyone has to affect change. While I don’t expect to change the world with words I do hope to explore and challenge beliefs and ideas (my own included) and prompt thought in others as well.
This is why I do what I do. Why do you?