Saturday, June 21, 2003

Ye Olde Topic is Back

Remember that theme discussion at FM that turned into a debate about heroes and got rather nasty? Well, it's back again. In a way. Holly posted a new article today called Saving the World Through Typing in which she repeats her view that to write with the intent of saving the world is a Bad Thing. But she tackles this subject in a humorous yet vastly better way than her posts in that icky topic from months ago. Either that or I've changed myself over the months. At any rate, had I read this then, I likely would've kept my cool about the business instead of letting it consume me. Why? Because it makes some good distinctions right out in the first two paragraphs. I fall into the "Tortured Idealist" category, not because I survived something tough (although I've done that, just haven't decided to write about it yet) but because I heard somebody say something that scared the shit out of me and had to write a book that addressed that in the hopes that I could speak my mind on the matter that way. If someone read this book, saw my point, and decided to Do Something About It, great. Maybe that was even my initial intention in the writing of the book. But last summer when I stumbled into my voice and my passion for writing, that intention changed. Oh, it was still there in my theme, but I just wanted to write the story. I can always hope it will bring about some changes, but I know better than to expect it or even try to promote that hope. Of course, I knew that when I started as well.

I guess my biggest issue with the old debate was that I do every job with the hopes of changing the world. That's not the primary reason. I'm not that arrogant. But it's something that gives me a sense of purpose in dark times and that keeps me going. When I did research, I loved the questions and puzzles that biochemistry offered. I thought it was so neat to study a bacterium that had managed to develop a means of digesting a man-made compound that had at one time been toxic to it. The possibilities for combatting superbacteria and even pollution gave me a sense of pride and purpose in what I was doing. It made me feel good about what I was spending my life doing. Same with teaching. I taught because I love science and I wanted to share that love with others and give others scientific puzzles and riddles to tackle. And, yes, I also hoped that maybe I could make a difference in my students' lives. Everything I've ever spent time on, I've done with at least a small hope of making the world a better place. Even writing. So on some level, I do write to save the world.

But here's the catch. I know I can't do it by myself. I know I will never have an idea that will fix any problem beyond my own need to accomplish something, to make a point. I harbor nothing but the hope that someday, somewhere someone will look at something I've done and do something good with it. Of course, I'm fully aware that someday, somewhere someone can look at something I've done and do something bad with it as well. It's not going to stop me from doing and hoping. This world's got serious problems, and I am not under any illusion that any one person can fix a single one of them. Real change is brought about by lots of people working together in a common purpose. And I never think for an instant when I sit down to type that my words will provide that purpose. But sometimes I might hope it does, for at least a small group of people trying to stop one tiny problem in the midst of a lot of crap. That makes me, and every other writer with "change the world" tendencies I've bumped into so far a "Tortured Idealist" not a "Writer Superhero". But reading Holly's passion on the subject makes me wonder what other writers I'm going to bump into down the road.

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