"It's just a story."
There's a phrase that never ceases to bother me. I've heard it used in several different contexts, all of them absurd.
"Oh, don't get so worked up over the bad messages in that novel. It's just a story."
"I don't know if being a writer is the right choice. What difference will I be able to make? After all, they're just stories."
"Don't worry so much about how people interpret your writing. It's just a story."
I've always found that phrase odd. It's an accumulation of absurdities, ignorance, and thoughtlessness. "It's just a story." Since when did we start telling ourselves such problematic mistruths?
Through words, men have been inspired to fly halfway across the world to minister to people they have never met. Because of words, men have been whipped into a frenzy and slaughtered those they had no true quarrel with.
It only makes sense that words, when put into the form of stories, are just as powerful as conversations or speeches. Perhaps even more so.
How many times have you read a novel and been forced to sit back and think about the world in a way you never would have otherwise?
How many times has the story of one person's courage or faith inspired the same feelings in you?
How many times has a story changed your life?
For me, the answer to these questions is the same: Many times. 1984 made me think about my freewill and ask myself how far I would be willing to go to preserve it. I draw strength from Samwise Gamgee's perseverance, am inspired by Remus's fight against a disease that threatened to overtake him, and am in awe of Liesel's hunger to use words to do beautiful things. The story of the King who gave his life for the entire world changed my life.
I look at this and it is clear to me that there is no such thing as "just a story."
Stories are many things, but they are not small and they are not meaningless. Stories have an immeasurable amount of sway over our lives, and this sway has grown even larger because people are no longer aware of it.
Because people are convinced that they are "just stories," they forget to be careful about what kinds of stories they are putting into the world or allowing into their minds.
Because they are just stories, authors no longer write their stories for a reason. They forget that novels can help shape the way people think. Shelves are full of books that were not meant to mean anything, and thus end up reflecting the hollowness and depravity of the world.
Because they are just stories, readers feel no need to be intentional about what kind of words and images they fill their minds with. They do not recognize how stories can lock into their hearts and change the direction of their thoughts.
Believing that stories are "just stories" does not take away their power. It simply causes people to forget that the power is there, making it all the easier to misuse.
It's about time that people start being intentional about the kinds of stories that are told and listened to.
It's time that we drop the "just."
They are not just stories. They are stories. Tales of ourselves: of who we are and who we strive to be. Accounts of places real and imagined, of people beautiful and ugly, of thoughts noble and evil.
These stories make up the world. They are stories we replay for ourselves in our minds, which we call memories. They are bedtime tales that help us to be unafraid of the monsters under the bed. They are inspiring recollections of brave people, educational tellings of turning points in history. They are gospels that are people's salvation.
They are life.
That is not something to be taken lightly. And there is certainly no "just" about it.
Next time you sit down to write a story, I want you to stop and think about what it is that you are doing. You are creating something of power: you are weaving together truths and dreams and adventures that will take seed in somebody else's mind, possibly your own. You can nudge people into thinking and feeling deeply, or you can stop them from using their minds altogether. You can inspire them into courage and passion and selflessness, of you can let them stay in their comfort zone where they will never grow. You can create a story simply to entertain, or you can create a story that does far more than that.
It is up to you.
Will you treat your work as "just a story," or will you see it for what it is: something strong and powerful and capable of changing the minds and souls that it touches?
Challenging Writer's to Create Stories With Meaning
Challenging Creative Writers To Be More Creative
Be A Writer, Not An Author
Enjoy this post? Please share on social media and take a look around.
If you like what you see, don't forget to subscribe by email for a new
post every Friday!