As human beings, I think we all want to feel that we are contributing to society. But we–the non-famous, the ones with few financial resources–find ourselves thinking that we can’t possibly make a difference to others. We’re not philanthropists like George Clooney or Bono who have the drive and money to travel the world and seek solutions to very large problems. We’re not saints like Mother Teresa who seemed to have a superhuman faith that carried her through trying circumstances. So what can the average person possibly offer to fellow human beings?
I’ve often wondered that about myself. I’ve been around four and a half decades now, and what do I have to show for it? Nothing really. At least that’s the way it seems. But one day not so very long ago, I was sitting in a movie theater, watching a particularly well-made movie, and afterward I marveled at how the experience had taken me away from everything in my life. For two hours, I was completely removed from any trouble or irritation. I marveled at the power of the film and the film-makers, of the person who had written the screenplay. Somehow those unseen people (and those seen on the screen) had worked some mysterious magic to do something for me that not even a drug can do. They had given me a glorious escape…all for $6.
The experience made me reflect on other great movies that I had seen over the years, movies that not only touched me but had touched thousands of others. Think of the original “Star Wars” movie. Think of how many times people like myself have seen that movie again and again, how it has become a part of our pop culture all these years later. Think of other movies like “Gone With The Wind” or “Casablanca” or “True Grit.”
As I reflected, I realized that perhaps entertainment was not so frivolous, at least not the right kind of entertainment. To be able to be transported from the moment to another world or another era, to be so immersed in it that all worldly cares melt away… Well, that is a gift. The many people responsible for such powerful movies often have no idea how much they have touched other people’s lives and given them a few moments of peace and relief.
So what does this have to do with writing? Like film, novels offer a similar escape. Think of the Harry Potter series, for example. Those books captivated the world like few others have. Who can forget the anticipation leading up to the release of each of those stories? Lines forming around the block at book stores; television coverage; newspaper coverage, etc. Why do people read and love such books? Because the world of Harry Potter is so very different than ours and takes people away from daily cares for those few blessed hours of reading. While I admit that I am one of the few people on the planet to have not read these books (though I intend to once I get an e-reader 😉 ), I can understand the excitement because I’ve had book series that I’ve enjoyed as well. Take, for example, Pat O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series. Or a long-ago series from my youth called Circle of Light, a fantasy series whose books I awaited keenly with each publication. To this day I remember my excitement which I shared with another friend who loved the series.
Books are magical. Stories are therapy. In today’s world of electronic gadgets, there’s still something special about holding an old-fashioned book in your hand. And that’s where I hope to come in.
They say we all have special gifts. I reckon one of mine is writing. When I left the theater that day all I could think about was how I, too, wanted to be responsible for affording another person or thousands of people an escape from the drudgery that daily life can be. It motivates me every time I sit down at the computer to edit or compose something new. Perhaps one day my books will be anticipated with excitement by others, and for those few hours when they hold that book in their hands and read, they will forget about things like angry customers, impossible bosses, a personal illness, or a family tragedy. For that sacred moment, I will have helped them escape. I will have made a difference.