There are numerous jobs that are crucial to our world and to humanity.
Doctors, nurses, all medical care providers, teachers, plumbers, domestic violence advocates, mental health counselors, and firefighters, to name a few.
I could go on naming more, as I’m sure you could too.
Writers and authors are equally as crucial to the well-being and progress of humanity as the above careers and jobs.
Why? For several reasons.
What people write can change the culture
Consider the #othervoices movement right now in the literary world. 1984 by George Orwell launched the genre of dystopian stories. Terms from the book like “Big Brother,” “doublethink,” “thoughtcrime,” and “2 + 2 = 5″ are still commonly used today. That book will always be an important reminder that freedom of expression and thought is worth any cost in society.
Aesop’s Fables have been used since they were written, many times over, to teach lessons such as “slow and steady wins the race” or other simple, moral lessons. The Art of War, his teachings in the book have been embraced by the worlds of business and law to learn how to gain the upper hand in arguments and negotiations. And then Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, quite possibly the most widely read and important book to have come out of the Holocaust period.
The Feminine Mystique byBetty Friedan, written because she was inspired when asked to do a survey of her former classmates at Smith College upon their fifteenth reunion and found that most of them were very unhappy in their roles as housewives and mothers. The research for the book involved delving into psychology and the media, as well as conducting interviews with suburban housewives to try and figure out why they were unfulfilled. The New York Times said that the book “permanently transformed the social fabric of the United States.”
I could go on and on with examples. Essentially though, books can and do shift the culture on its axis, changing the trajectory of life as we know it for certain groups of people and, as a result, for everyone around them.
What people write can save someone’s life
A person who may have been abused or grew up in a toxic family or who has suffered through a devastating loss (such as a divorce, a loved one dying, a beloved pet passing away, or a best friend leaving), solace, a sense of emotional support, and healing can be found in books.
The right book, poem, or piece of writing at the right time? It can change our minds, our soul, and our life. It can offer a sense of comfort, feelings of validation, and as though one isn’t alone in their emotional struggle. That others have gone through similar degrees of pain and challenge.
With books and the words of others, we can find healing. We can stumble upon beauty and decide that maybe, things are capable of changing for the better. Through books and writing, we can reach and help each other with words and insights.
What people write can offer education and wisdom to others
There are so many books that offer such riches in terms of knowledge, wisdom, and inspiration. Within the words of another, you can learn how to speak another language, how to communicate with people better and thus, improve your relationships as a result. You can learn which dog breeds might be the right pick for you, or what living in Japan could be like. You might learn that 90 percent of the animals in shelters will die there, and so as an animal lover, you are then compelled to adopt your pets rather than get them from a breeder. You can learn skills to better garden or identify different types of birds. You can learn about the opioid epidemic and depression, or about the ill effects of wheat on health.
We can access the world through books. All the knowledge. All the insights. And this knowledge and these insights can change our lives going forward. It’s a sort of magic, really. To be able to have all of this right at your fingertips. And you need not be rich. Every town has a local library where you can go, sit, and read for free.
What people write can teach empathy to others
Through books and essays, we can imagine what it might feel like to lose the dearest friend of our life, or to be left by someone we love deeply. We can glimpse what the experience might be like to grow up in extreme neglect or within a drug-addicted family. We can imagine what types of scars being abused can leave on a person’s heart.
We can access alternate vantage points for why a person might cheat, some of which may indicate someone is a crappy person, and others which might not, and may instead indicate someone is human. We can fathom what it feels like to have an emotionally close, poignant relationship with a beloved pet through literature if we have never had this ourselves. We can experience a second-hand perspective of so many things, all of which can and will expand our sense of empathy, our sense of other people, our hearts, and our sense of the world.
What people write can offer a sense of understanding and “me too” to readers
You know those passages you read in a book or article which you find yourself nodding and thinking, yes. That line. That paragraph. That insight. This is part of why we read. To feel understood. To learn about life. To feel as though we and others are not so different in our shared humanity. To feel less alone.
What people write can entertain, excite, and bring liveliness to the lives of others
Harry Potter. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Daisy Jones and The Six. A Good Neighborhood. The Most Fun We Ever Had. Call Me By Your Name. An American Marriage. A Little Life. The Immortalists. Americanah. Everything I Never Told You. I could go on and on. We can get lost within the worlds, people, and stories of books. This is part of the point, for many people, of reading. Exploring these other worlds and lives. It’s an incredible thing, that during our own everyday lives, we can delve into the lives and experiences of others through literature, like Harry Potter into Dumbledore’s pensive.
What people write can change our world as we know it
The #metoo movement. In a more negative vein, all of Trump’s tweets. The Spotlight Group with The Boston Globe exposed the Catholic priest sex scandals. The reporting on civil rights-era crimes. Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein’s 1994 book The Bell Curve. The AP story aboutMatthew Shepard. Reportings and writing on Hurricane Katrina.
These are all examples of how writing can change significant aspects of our world as we know it. And there are innumerable more examples. Writing is powerful stuff. Do not underestimate it.
What people write can expose things that need to be, and evoke great change
Another word for people who write things like this can be Muckraker, meaning, those who dig deep for facts. They might expose things via fictional writing or nonfiction.
Upton Sinclair who wrote The Jungle was one of them. His novel portrays the harsh working conditions, extreme poverty, and exploitation faced by the mainly immigrant laborers in Chicago’s meat-packing industry.
John Spargo was another. Spargo’s investigative report on the terrible conditions of child labor in the United States called “The Bitter Cry of Children” was published in 1906. While many were fighting against child labor in America, Spargo’s book was the most widely read and most influential as it detailed the dangerous working condition of boys in coal mines.
Ida B. Wells was born into enslavement in Holly Springs, Mississippi, and grew up to become a teacher and then an investigative journalist and activist. She was skeptical of the reasons given for Black men being lynched and after one of her friends was lynched, she began researching white mob violence. In 1895, she published “A Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynchings in the United States 1892–1893–1894,” providing clear evidence that lynchings of African American men in the South were not the result of the rape of white women.
Today, our very own Muckrakers can be seen as journalists who write for The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and other similar publications. Doing what they can to expose the things that most need to be talked about and changed. This can also include books that have been written about current cultural and societal issues that have started important conversations. To name a few: The Hate U Give, Sing Unburied Sing, Little Fires Everywhere, Hillbilly Elegy, and Wild.
Authors and writers are crucial to the mental health, well-being, and growth of both civilization and human beings.
They have the power to heal individuals with their words and insights, to offer a sense of solace and support to others with their stories, to teach and educate, the expose that which needs to be in order to better our world, to entertain and delight, and to change the culture as we know it. Writing is how humans talk to one another across states, continents, and divides. It’s also a method of making magic with our minds and pens.
Our world needs writers. It depends on them. In the same way that we need doctors, teachers, firefighters, and other crucial workers. Writers and authors are crucial to our world and our humanity.