The world seems like a pretty scary place lately. Let’s be honest, nothing has changed. Viruses have always been a threat as have many other dangers. But sometimes these threats rear up and remind us they are here.
When I face something scary, I like to do something. Anything. Right now that looks like cleaning, self isolating, and calling and texting my loved ones. But I still feel like there are so many needs that are going unmet.
But right now I can’t meet those needs. Some of that is because I have been fighting the tail end of a virus myself and I want to be extra safe and put extra distance between myself and others. But there are some things I can do. One of the biggest things I did was just to make my books available to those who want them with some freebies and sales. Why? Because stories matter.
Stories Give Distraction
This may not seem like a really big deal, but what are people turning to when they are stuck home for long periods of time? Books and television provide a little bit of escapism. Who doesn’t want to hide in a different world with different problems when things seem like they are falling apart around them.
And escapism isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes all we need in order to face the next day is a moment of stress-free rest. If, by providing stories, we can give people that, we should.
Stories Give Catharsis
One of the stories that is most popular at the moment is Contagion, a movie about a deadly pandemic. I am also seeing a lot of other virus and illness-related content on the web recently. Not to mention all the zombie enthusiasts moping that they can’t pull out all their zombie-fighting gear.
It’s not just morbid interest that draws us to these things. It’s catharsis. All the stress and pressure and fear that we keep inside is looking for a release and by identifying with another character going through a similar situation we can let some of that out.
Even in horrible situations I guess.
Stories Give Companionship
We love fictional characters. We relate to them. We feel real emotions for them. And there are some ways in which we can live vicariously through them. So when we are stuck in quarantine for a while, or even just every day lonely, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to crack open a book.
Just don’t forget to keep in touch with real people too. Yes, even you introverts
Stories Give Hope
Yes, a story can entertain and distract you. They can give comfort and solace and escape. But a story does much more otherwise they wouldn’t have become such a cornerstone of human culture as they have. Stories also shape culture.
Nothing allows you to step into someone else’s shoes like a story, and so stories can be one of the best ways to teach empathy. Nothing allows you to see into another human’s mind and work together to imagine a world.
Something every good story has: an end. And in a world where we can’t comfortably put a cap on things and say “okay, I’m over it” or “we are past this now”, having that end can be so valuable.
Better yet, while I won’t argue that there are places for stories with sad endings, a lot of stories also have good or hopeful endings. Right now we are being told a lot about how bleak things are looking. Lives lost. Hospitals collapsing. Economies crumbling. Racism. Hoarders. I could go on. So having stories that help us imagine that the ending can be good are even more valuable. Sometimes we need a bit of help finding hope.
So the best thing I could probably do right now? Stay home and write stories. In fact, those stories are going to be a valuable contribution to the world no matter when I write them.