Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why Writers are Heroes

A person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal. (Via

A mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability. (Via

A person noted for special achievement in a particular field. (Via

Of course there are people who love books. There are people who love both reading and writing, who love stories and morals and symbolism, but how many people have stopped to consider writers as heroes?
  1. Bravery and Dedication
    For centuries, writers have been publishing truth in the face of controversy and control. They have done this in a journalistic fashion, the way Martin Luther posted his 95 thesis on the church door, and the unforgettable way that reporters today hunker down in battlefields and journalist-hating countries to help bring clarity to unaware readers. As the beloved banned book week many libraries celebrate will tell us, unwanted truths are written into fiction as well. These truths range from the underlying hatred and control that Arthur Miller spent his entire writing live trying to unveil, to the crude truths Holden Caufeild shows us about real people, and how they call prostitutes and use the F word. Writers have had their books banned, and put them selves in physical danger to share their thoughts and grievances. We may have come a long way from tar-and-feathering, but modern prosecution of a writer is still a noteworthy risk.

  1. Facilitating comfort, “Coming to the rescue”
    The biggest reason there is to love reading or writing is the security blanket we find in realizing how universal our problems and feelings are. Taking this fact into focus, have we ever thought about the mental power it takes to demonstrate how all of us, from accountants in Japan to Mounties in Canada to Hemp farmers in California, are all the same in so many deep and emotional ways? Good books have helped dry tears, offer fresh perspective, and have even saved lives. I once knew a girl with severe facial scars from an accident, who said that her self-loathing was unbearable until she found a character in literature with the same affliction, who reflected the same dark questions and brooding fears. She told me if it had not been for books showing her that everyone is as afraid as her, “I know I wouldn't have made it to college.”

  2. Book = Time capsule
    Historians may remember where general So-and-so lead the forces of Where-ever-ville, and anthropologists may remember how many molars the men fighting in the war were thought to have and what gods they prayed to at the bottom of their foxholes, but who remembers the people? Who thinks about what it was like reading expressions of terror on the faces of comrades, or what it feels like to find your ally full of holes, and suffering? It is the imagination and empathy of writers that preserves day-to-day culture. They sift through the historian's journals and the anthropological articles, and then connects that data with human spirit, and folklore. Literature and documents make the difference between re-watching humanity, and reliving it.

This post may be a little fluffy, but I bring all this up because I want writers who are in doubt about their stories, or who are afraid of the things they have to say, to realize where they are. There are many people who fear writing as equally as public speaking, and public speaking as much as death, and for viable reasons.

But in the words of Stephen King, “Do not come lightly to the blank page.” The work we carry on is in good and noble company, and provides something priceless. We are writers: purveyors of humanity, beacons of truth, and heroes.  

1 comment: