ADD ANOTHER TO THE LIST
Patti Callahan Henry
Five years ago, I experienced a long period of doubt about this 'writing life'. It was just so...hard (you hear the whiny tone in my voice?). I had to rewrite and rewrite, I had to accept rejection and criticism, I had to sit long hours at the computer working instead of just being inspired and creative. And I still wanted to do it.
Although I walked, and crawled some days, through this valley of doubt, I couldn't stop writing. i just couldn't. I even tried, out of spite. but something greater and more beautiful than me took over, and I didn't quit.
I have always kept a journal (which will be burned upon my death :) No one told me to write in a diary; it was just a natural expression of my world, my confusion. So when this doubt and darkness fell over my writing heart, I turned to journaling and prayer. Why am I doing this? Why do I write?
First answer to self: because I have to.
That just didn't seem good enough. I went a few layers deeper, past my wants, past my striving, past my ambition and need for success and found the real answer: I believe in the power of story.
I wrote my "I believe" five-point list to remind myself of these convictions, and to teach it to others. I talk about this subject often -- how fiction is important in our lives and in our culture. I've received many an email from stodgy readers who tell me "I only read non-fiction". Then by some flash of fate, they end up at one of my talks at the Kiwanis Club or the Rotary club, where they had no idea their reading habits would be threatened. I talk of this power and often, but not always, they change their views.
This belief in the power of story was driven home to me these past weeks in the political mayhem. I thought I knew where I stood with each candidate, until I listened to their stories and began to see each candidate as more than an ideology or a political stance.
I can now add to my "Believe" list. I believe that story binds us together in the human condition. Story brings and allows empathy even when we don't agree in ideology. As LeeAnn Rimes sings, "Everybody wants the same thing...to be loved."
When I started to listen to the candidates stories, everything changed. And isn't that --right there -- the real power of story? To change everything.
Patti Callahan Henry is the author of five novels with Penguin/NAL. Her fifth novel, THE ART OF KEEPING SECRETS will be on the shelves on June 2, 2008.