Up until the past few years, I wrote fiction religiously. Electronic copies of novels, short stories, and poems fill ancient floppy disks; the hard copies are stacked in boxes, binders, and folders. I’ve gone through piles of paper, weeks and months of work, and have subjected friends and family to read my work for their input and suggestions. Creating alternate worlds and languages, drawing up maps and designing building plans, I ignored the real world for a very long time. I was more interested in what the imagination can produce than I was about writing about factual events.

Why writing fiction isn't selfish

I was confident that my writing had potential because I had received encouragement from a variety of people in the publishing industry. Even so, I found something uncomfortable about my love of writing. I’d think about my future career as an author and it bothered me to think that I would spend my life pursuing the enjoyment of writing fiction when there were so many other professions which gave back much more to the community. I wouldn’t be saving any lives by writing, like a firefighter does. I wouldn’t be doing any kind of research work or engaging in political groups to make environmental improvements or societal progress. I would instead be writing for pleasure. Even if most authors live frugally, it still seemed to me a luxurious pastime. A selfish job.

For the love of writing

Then a friend carelessly told me that they didn’t think my writing was anything great, and, being at a vulnerable age and time in my life, I took it to heart. I shoved my writing aside and focused on the real world, trying to figure out how I could best contribute to society. I went to university with the intent on becoming a psychologist (what first-year student doesn’t intend on getting their degree in psychology?). Thankfully one of my professors was so boring that I figured out immediately that psychology was not my direction in life, and I began dabbling in writing again. This time, I decided to pay attention to the tangible world around me, and to write about what I saw.

That is how Living Healthy in the Real World came to life. I found that I loved writing about what was going on, learning more about health as I went. But a part of me still felt inspired to write fiction, so when the mood struck I’d write a paragraph here and a chapter there, until soon I was compiling together a little novella.

When I left my home most recently this past May to live in Cambodia for five weeks, I had plenty of spare time to devote to writing fiction. It made me happy. Although writing about the real world is something I enjoy and love immensely, it is a different kind of happiness that I get from writing about fiction. After spending an afternoon working on my novella, I feel relaxed and content. Similar to how I feel after exercising. My head clears and I’m more productive after spending some time working on my book.

Writing fiction is okay

I’ve figured out that I am liable to be grumpy, moody, and all-around unpleasant if a couple days go by without my spending a considerable amount of time with each of the following: exercise, writing fiction, and working on my blogs. If too many days pass without writing fiction, I become unproductive and easily irritated. Writing fiction allows me to separate myself from the everyday, to turn off my brain and explore my creative side. The process is calming. Reading fiction generally does the same thing as writing it, too.

Although fiction might appear on the surface as a selfish sort of hobby (or profession), it isn’t at all. Fiction can act as therapy all on its own. If it makes us feel better, if it makes us pleasant to be around and more productive, if we grow as people from it and if other people gain something from reading it, then writing fiction is anything but selfish. As long as we continue to learn and to grow, and if we can give back to others through our writing, then it’s a really wonderful activity. Both reading and writing fiction is well worth the time and effort. Take a break from reality and engage in what inspires you: guilt-free.

Do you love to write? What do you need to do every day? Are you doing what you love? Share in the comments section below.

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4 thoughts on “Why writing fiction is not selfish

  1. Never mind about making the _writer_ feel better! Reading fiction makes the _reader_ feel better, which makes the writing a public service. When I was in graduate school and inundated with journal articles to read, I found I had to save at least one hour a day for reading fiction or I could not concentrate.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

    Posted on August 18, 2009 at 7:33 pm
  2. When I was young, I spent hours and hours writing fiction (long-hand), filling reams and reams of notebooks and yellow legal pads with my scribbling. I loved creating a different world.
    When I was in college, I worked on a story between classes. Several of my classmates would hurry to the lounge to read the next installment. We had a blast.
    Those were the good old days.

    Posted on August 20, 2009 at 7:16 am
  3. Mary Anne- you’re right, it really is a very important public service!

    the Bag Lady- oh and you just KNOW I’m going to be pestering you to start posting each installment on your blog… 😀

    Posted on August 20, 2009 at 4:08 pm
  4. I love poem … nice to know this article. Thanks

    Posted on August 30, 2009 at 12:34 pm