The wonderful thing about writing is that you can write anything, including all those things that you really want to say but are too afraid to. Writers are commonly described as introverts, and I would tend to agree since I lean towards the introvert end of the spectrum myself. During my school years I was painfully quiet, every parent’s evening my teachers would praise my work and grades and then they would say the dreaded ‘but’ word, usually followed by something like ‘Caitlin is very quiet during lessons and should put up her hand more to answer questions.’ It became almost comical in the end, as I could predict what each teacher would say before sitting down to talk to them.
The thing is, I wasn’t particularly confident in myself, and in social situations I preferred to watch and listen, rather than be at the centre of the conversation. As much as this has helped me understand people and their emotions, it also hindered my social skills. I also have a strong sense of right and wrong (although it’s probably not 100% accurate) and I hate confrontations and injustice. Unfortunately, people can be defensive of their beliefs and opinions, and more often than not, I’ve found it easier to say nothing rather than to disagree with such people. There have been times over my short life when I’ve had good ideas, opinions and thoughts over matters, but was too afraid to speak up. I often look back at my past and wish I’d done or said something differently.
This is where writing and reading become a blessing, and also a good way to educate oneself on what people actually think and feel. Whenever we’re online, at work, or meet new people, we hide behind a mask of words, videos and photographs that only showcase what we think are our best qualities. Sometimes we slip up, but on the whole we like to show people how beautiful we are, and not that time we ate a takeaway in bed and spilt curry sauce down our top. Writing and reading books, particularly fiction, is where those other sides of you – your ideas, opinions and thoughts that you were too afraid to highlight, can be expressed. You can cover topics that may be controversial to talk about in public, yet potentially important. ‘Brave New World’ and ‘1984’ are great examples of books which cover controversial topics.
Books allow us to step into the minds of characters that have done or think things that we ourselves would hopefully never do or think. Books also allow us to live other people’s lives and experiences and give our consciences little tests over what we would do if we had been in the same situation. Most importantly, books make us think and allow us to empathise with different types of people. If we can understand the characters’ backstories, lives and personalities, then it is easier to understand why those characters behave or think the way they do. This ultimately translates to the real world too; every country and its citizens are different from us. It’s a shame that in our increasingly busy schedules that most of us probably don’t even know what our neighbour’s life has been like, or what they might believe and value.
Of course there is a downside; fictional novels often feature some epic fight between a good character and an evil character. There are wars and battles where good must triumph over evil, and movies often take these elements and concentrate them even further. It leads people to believe that revolution and change can only happen if there is some kind of fight, and that you must fight against the opposition, who usually just disagree with your side. In reality, the opposition are often not inherently evil like they are in the books and the movies. They are just the characters whose backstories, lives and personalities you haven’t read about yet.
If fighting isn’t the solution, then what is? Well, reading more books. Books, both fiction and non-fiction can educate people both academically and emotionally, regardless of your age or your grades. Books helps us understand the world and allow us to experience situations, lives and different character types, without having to directly experience it ourselves. Books contain all the unsaid ideas, thoughts and opinions from authors, and there are a hell of a lot of different and interesting ideas. And for me personally, writing is a way where I can express all the things that I have left unsaid for far too long.
So if you want to educate yourself and have a better understanding of people in general, but can’t afford to travel the globe and can’t speak several languages, then diving into a new book is what you need to do. Real change and revolutions don’t happen with wars across continents and galaxies, but they may well happen in libraries and bookshops.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies”, said Jojen. “The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R. R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons.