Writing Life: A Writer’s Impact/Role in the Community

Since this topic was suggested a couple of years ago, I struggled in defining the role of a writer in both society and community.  I’ve read and researched and worked to narrow down the title of “writer” in a sea of professions.  It occurred to me recently that, maybe, it wasn’t a “profession.”  Writing is something people do from the heart, and lumping it in with “making a living” completely defaces the point.  So,  I tried again, this time without books or search engines trying to define the role of “a person who writes” on “people who don’t write.”

There are different types of writers with different end-goals in mind when they put pen to paper.  Some of us want to change the world, make it better.  Some of us want to turn a profit.  Some of us just want the experience of writing.   The options are endless and no two writers will give you exactly the same answer.  The role of a writer, as a writer, in his community and in society will ultimately be defined by the role of writing in the life of the writer.  This is a blog that centers around fiction, so, for the sake of consistency, let’s stick to the topic in terms of writers of fiction.  Also, I can’t tell you how or if a writer may choose to impact their community, I can only tell you how I hope to impact my community in terms of my writing.

  1. I want to empower women and girls.  I strive to write strong women, or girls who grow into their strength, in the hopes that someone, somewhere may read it and identify.  I want that strength to be transferable.
  2. I want to help other writers.  The road to publication and a strong reader base is not a competition for me.  Everyone needs a hand up now and then.  By reading the work of my favorite authors, my life has been greatly impacted, my outlooks changed, and my skills as a writer developed.  If there is anything I can do to pay that incredibly valuable service forward, I will put myself out there to make it happen.
  3. I want to encourage literacy, and even just the basic picking up of a book.  So many people consider reading boring, and it breaks my heart.  If I can be the one to suggest the book that draws a person into the world of reading and learning, I would consider that an amazing accomplishment.

The list isn’t long, but those three points are very important to me.  So, instead of telling you what your role as a writer should be in your community, I want you to tell  me what you feel your role is.

What parts of you, as a writer, do you feel are valuable in your community, locally and globally?  How do you translate your love of writing into helping others?



Filed under Writing Life

5 responses to “Writing Life: A Writer’s Impact/Role in the Community

  1. dianesloftis

    I love the discussion questions added to the end of your posts! I don’t recall you doing this in the past. Nonetheless, I do the same! It’s clever!

    I have also struggled with this topic. For me, It is important to me that I show my support to local area authors. It was extremely disappointing to me when I learned that quite often local authors/writers do not get the support they should from their community. My opinion, is that people tend to be simply unaware of what they can do to help. I like to educate folks. With that said, Here are some ways I attempt to help. I promote local authors via social media platforms. I attend book signings. I leave reviews. Recently, due to me joining Twitter- I have participated in a “Cover Reveal” for a local author via my blog. And I am exploring the idea of “character interviews” via my blog.

    Great post, by the way! I think this is my most favorite one yet! :)

    • I have them on some of my past posts, but not all of them. I’m forgetful. =P

      A large part of the problem is that reading is considered less visual and auditory artistic medium. Readers identify with writers, but there are fewer “readers” than there are music fans and movie buffs, etc. Unfortunately, we writers have a hard time being heard because a lot of people think “I like this person, but to get to know their work, I have to READ it.” Reading still reminds people of being forced to read in school, so naturally all reading must be like that. It’s a serious shame. Any help we, as writers, can lend to other writers is invaluable and I love that you’re doing that!

      I’m really glad you liked the post. <3 I need to get into writing more material like this.

  2. davidandresmejia

    Writing and reading being such solitary activities, sometimes it is hard for a writer to know exactly the kind of impact he or she has on the community.

    I have felt this to some degree working at both a public library and as the librarian at an elementary school. At first, I thought these would be the perfect jobs to talk about books with people who were enthusiastic about reading. I quickly saw, however, the people who tended to check out the kinds of books that I admire were also the quieter ones, who usually don’t need assistance finding what they need, because they know where to look and how to search for it if its not there. They come in silently as ghosts, snatch what they need on the hold shelf, and then slither just as secretively out.

    There are always a few exceptions (there is a 5th grader that goes to the public library that reads easily 200+ books a year, both her grade level and more difficult YA books. She is generally solitary, but quite talkative when you do give her a chance to talk about novels. She even read a draft of my the fantasy novel I’m working on, which makes her my first full reader, ha).

    Though I’m not yet a writer of books, I feel that even the opportunity to talk about books and engage with others on them is very difficult – how do you really get into the depths of what you loved about a 300+ page novel within the short space of time that most casual, day-to-day exchanges with people in the public world comprise of?

    That said, I know that writing can have amazing influence on the inner life of a person, and just because this impact is harder to discern at a distance than, say, the way people react at a really rockin’ concert, doesn’t mean it is not just as powerful.

    Two articles that I’ve read recently address this in poignant ways. The first is by author Sherman Alexie, called “Why the Best Kids Books Are Written in Blood”. Here’s a quote:

    “Almost every day, my mailbox is filled with handwritten letters from students–teens and pre-teens–who have read my YA book and loved it. I have yet to receive a letter from a child somehow debilitated by the domestic violence, drug abuse, racism, poverty, sexuality, and murder contained in my book. To the contrary, kids as young as ten have sent me autobiographical letters written in crayon, complete with drawings inspired by my book, that are just as dark, terrifying, and redemptive as anything I’ve ever read.

    And, often, kids have told me that my YA novel is the only book they’ve ever read in its entirety.

    So when I read Meghan Cox Gurdon’s complaints about the “depravity” and “hideously distorted portrayals” of contemporary young adult literature, I laughed at her condescension.

    Does Ms. Gurdon honestly believe that a sexually explicit YA novel might somehow traumatize a teen mother? Does she believe that a YA novel about murder and rape will somehow shock a teenager whose life has been damaged by murder and rape? Does she believe a dystopian novel will frighten a kid who already lives in hell?”

    Personally, I’d like my writing to have the same kind of impact. I know that 5th grader I mentioned before will have both a richer imaginative life and a stronger sense of herself as a woman, from reading books by authors like Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore. Literature is amazing for its ability to speak to things that we could never address in our normal interactions with teachers, parents, co-workers, and people on the street. Things too dark, too intense, too beautiful, too close to our heart.

    I realize that I mentioned two articles, but I’ve forgotten the second one! If I remember it, and its as good as the first, I’ll link to it in another comment =P

    • This is easily one of the best comments I’ve ever received. If you don’t mind, I’d really like to share it with others. I’ve struggled with this topic for awhile now, and this comment kind of blew me away.

      • davidandresmejia

        Thank you for saying so, though I think the most powerful part is probably Sherman Alexie’s long quote. You can definitely share it, but I am also working on a longer ‘defense of writing’ on my blog that might be also nice to link to, once I am finished with it (I’ve posted a rough draft so far).

        After years of solitary writing, I am just now trying to branch out and make connections with others in the writing community, so it is nice to get positive responses like this on my first forays =).

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