Stories sustain us. They keep us going; they keep death at bay. Sometimes quite literally, as in Scheherazade’s gambit. In Boccaccio’s Decameron, 10 young people go out into the countryside as the Black Death ravages Florence in 1348, and they tell each other stories. We have always told stories with our faces to the campfire, our backs to the dark.
This is true of non-fiction as well. When a terrible storm hit London in 1703, Daniel Defoe wrote down people’s personal accounts. Chronicles and reports have always helped us to understand our present, our past and our future.
Because writing presumes a future, it is an act of hope. It’s a message in a bottle to whoever might read the words again, even if that person is only ourselves, tomorrow. It’s an act of faith in reason and language and therefore, in community and continuity. All writing springs from love of the world, I think, or from love of what the world ought to be. A dream of something that we only see out of the corner of one eye. We try to pin it down, knowing we never can. The act of being aware of that beauty in the world, of trying to love it however imperfectly, is all that writing is. The effort is the art.
Set one simple and achievable writing goal for the foreseeable future. If “the foreseeable future” is the next week, do that. If you can plan for a few months, do that. Write down what you’d like to achieve over that period.
“So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take a pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information.” George Orwell, from Why I Write.