When you stop and think about it, writing is actually quite a silly thing to pursue. It’s down to logic. Why write about something that isn’t real? Or even better, why continue to agonise over something imaginary? If we measure our behaviour towards productivity, then writing is something that doesn’t fit. To be purely logical, why should anyone spend time that could otherwise be spent on facilitating some sort of material gain? Is there any value we can actually place on stories apart from emotional ones? It’s hard to find an answer. Financial inventive might work, but its rare to find any author who began writing for financial gain. It further collapses when you realise stories only sell because people invest emotionally in them. Quite simply, people buy stories because they like them.
As we grow up, we’re increasingly exposed to pressure that determines what we should and shouldn’t do. As such, the focus on imagination and unrealities dies off in favour of logic and reality. It’s why English classes go from having exercises in creative writing to writing analytical essays about works of literature. ‘Literature’ itself rarely includes any works of fantasy or science fiction. Those are populist, low-brow, sensationalist and therefore not high-brow. The irony is that many ‘classic’ works of ‘literature’ actually were criticised in their times for those same perceived faults. We only have to look back so far as to Modernism to understand that novels in themselves were criticised for lacking intellectual weight. The result is that even within the literary world, writing both struggles to and rigorously attempts to justify itself. There still is no answer.
Why is it then some of us continue to imagine the unreal, and therefore write?
This isn’t a post about defending writing, or trying to legitimate the process. Quite the opposite, I believe writing actually suffers from trying to legitimate itself and justify its place in society. The question shouldn’t be why you are you dreaming, but in fact asking those who asks such questions why they don’t dream. Imagination is key to being a good writer, so you shouldn’t try and legitimate your writing by neglecting it. Quite simply, this means where you should write where your imagination first takes you, and not where your head takes you to. As such, perhaps writers should not focus on writing fiction about our current reality, but instead write fiction that is truly fictitious. That is, it is not set in our reality, in our time. Instead, it dares to be imaginative, to deal in created worlds, rather than based on the one we’re already writing in. In this way, you make ‘fiction’ fiction.