I don’t wear makeup. That simple fact will save me, according to a 2010 survey, $13,000 over my lifetime.
Of course that makes me feel virtuous, as if I am not wasting time or money on something superficial and largely superfluous. But recently I’ve had some stabs of guilt over my chosen avocation—fiction writing—which will eventually, I hope, become my vocation.
Is fiction superfluous?
Especially now, when the down-and-out are finding their voices and occupying Wall Street, when my good friend Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez devotes herself to teaching and to waking up the world through her blog, Transition Times… isn’t it just a bit self-indulgent for me to spend hours each day pondering the lives and fates of people exist only between my ears?
Here’s the argument for why I believe, deep down, that fiction is neither superfluous or self-indulgent.
While I am not about to elevate myself to the height of such literary lions as Charles Dickens, Upton Sinclair, Harriet Beecher Stowe, or Margaret Atwood, there is no doubt that works of fiction can change the world. And becoming a well-known author gives you a platform for discussing issues that you might otherwise never be able to bring up. Just look one of my favorite authors, T.C. Boyle, and his books such as The Tortilla Curtain (illegal immigration) and When the Killing’s Done (the environmental).
It’s not always necessary to take our social and personal reform as dry, academic medicine. Sometimes we can take it in the form of a juicy, well-told story, and that’s what I’m aiming for with my writing.
In the meantime, I can take the $13,000 I didn’t give to the cosmetics industry and donate it to a worthy cause.
As the great Audre Lorde said, “poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we give name to the nameless so it can be thought….Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.”
Our poets and writers are our seers! There is no more important task then yes, plumbing the vast depths between your ears….