Fiction, My Forgotten Friend

For the past few years, I’ve treated fiction as a luxury. Reading seemed like something I would get to — when I had time to relax. Instead, I “prioritized” my reading time, focusing on self-improvement, health, social issues, environmental concerns. I thought that by tackling these problems (both internal & external) that I could settle back, without guilt, and enjoy a good book.

Instead, I recently discovered that my reading choices had converged into a monstrous cacophony of voices telling me what to do, how to be, what’s wrong with the world, why I had a hand in it and how to deal with the guilt and stress. It was a sudden realization — like when someone hits the mute button on the TV and you realize how annoying it’s been all along.  The more I read, the more I felt I should read. I’ll get to the fiction later — there’s no time to waste in fixing these problems!

And then, I stopped reading altogether. It was too much. There’s no fixing me, much less the world.

But then I remembered something – dimly, from my past. I picked up a book, pushed past my anxiety and guilt, and fell into a story. When I lifted my head a few hours later, I knew. Fiction isn’t frivolous. It’s not simply a diversion for people who don’t care about the real world. Depending upon the skill of the author and the willingness of the reader to explore, it can be a conduit for transformation in your own life. It can have tremendous power to shift your thinking and give you strength for difficult life experiences. Empathizing with a character’s loss yields far more personal insight than reading a magazine article with, say, the top 10 ways to deal with grief.

Writing this now – it seems silly. Why did I think “experts” telling me how to live in their black/white terms would get me further on life’s journey? Fiction gives me depth, complexity – and most importantly, the ability to interpret truth and meaning on my own terms through personal experience.

But don’t take my word for it… (ha, get it, Reading Rainbow…sigh)

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One thought on “Fiction, My Forgotten Friend

  • Posted on July 4, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Cara,

    Hallelujah! I couldn’t agree more. Fiction is how most of us avid readers were introduced to the magic and beauty of the written word. My first love was “Where the Red Fern Grows” in fourth grade. From that point on, I was hooked. Until… I had a similar experience to yours. I thought that I “should” be reading things that were helpful and educational. The result – many unfinished books with their bookmarks trapped in limbo, taunting me from my bedside table. I felt stuck until my mother insisted that I read “The Help.” I became lost in the story and devoured the delicious content. I shut out the world and basked in the glorious story.

    Reply

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