|Photo credit: a.drian on Flickr|
“I think that is the gift that both reading and writing can give us; the gift of escaping the prison of ourselves.” –John Green
Although I couldn’t attend BEA (Book Expo America, for those of you wondering what all the talk about BEA is about), I’ve been listening to a lot of the live streamed and recorded events on the Book Expo America website, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the BEA staff that’s made those videos available online because the information they’ve recorded is pure gold (so if you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend it. With italics).
I especially loved listening to the Author Breakfast that featured a panel of Chris Colfer, John Green, Lois Lowry and Kadir Nelson, because between the laughs and heart-wrenching stories, the authors shared some really powerful advice. An example of this is the quote I started this post off with. You see, after Green joked about the progression from his first novel, Looking for Alaska, in which he shared quite a few traits with the main character to his most recent novel, The Fault in Our Stars, in which he didn’t share any traits with his protagonist, he said the quote that I included above, and I thought that he pointed out something really special about writing.
Because yes, we often hear about writing what we know and while I still think it’s useful to do so at times, what Green emphasizes is the unique ability writing gives us—the ability to escape ourselves and step into someone else’s life.
Writing gives us the chance to be and do whatever we want—and there are no limitations.
This is why we need to take chances as writers to explore new worlds and characters and ideas that are entirely different from our own circumstances. This is why Mary Sueism is more than just the sign of an undeveloped writer—it’s the sign of a writer who hasn’t yet discovered the true gift that writing gives us. This is why, as writers, it is our job to set out on uncharted territory and come out with a story that we might not have thought ourselves capable of writing.
Because, as John Green points out, the gift is for more than just writers—it’s a gift that we can share with our readers. A gift that can really make our work special.
So I encourage you to take a risk and step outside the prison of yourself. You might just return with your best writing experience yet.
Now it’s your turn: What other gifts do writing and reading give us?