Stories Are A Luxury

My writer friends may take exception with this, but I don’t think the world needs stories.

Stories are a luxury.

This idea that stories (and any other form of art) are somehow a necessity is false. It’s a notion that we artistic types often perpetuate because we’re trying to assuage our own insecurity about the career path we want to pursue. It’s as if we still need to be convinced that being an artist is legit and worthwhile.

Here’s the stone cold truth, people: Art is not a required staple. It is not food nor is it shelter. The world will continue to spin even without the stories we tell.

Now this doesn’t mean stories aren’t important. To the right people, they are. Like liquor, chocolate, and peeping in strangers’ windows, stories add spice to life. (It probably says something about my own inner artistic conflict that I’ve just compared storytelling to other vices, but I’m not prepared to explore that this evening.)

The point I’m trying to make is that you don’t need stories to live, but if you enjoy them, stories can enhance your life. A good tale can provide entertainment and escape. It can impart social mores or force you to navigate moral ambiguities. A well-written story might reinforce your beliefs, but on the other hand, it could make you question what it is you think you know.

Stories can do a lot of things, but that doesn’t make them necessary.

As I’ve said, stories are a luxury, and it’s important that writers begin to think of them as such because there’s a whole lot of competition in the marketplace.

So far, I’ve asked you to accept the idea that stories are not something people must have. Now I want you to think about a specific story you’ve written and imagine it’s just like any other product for sale in the world. Maybe your story is a coffee maker.

Obviously there are a lot of coffee drinkers out there, certainly enough to sustain a market. But guess what? There are also a lot of people who make coffee makers. If we assume that prices stay fairly consist from model to model, why is your coffee maker better than any of the others on the shelf at Target?

If you want your product to sell, it needs to be unique and well-made and the best possible coffee maker it can be. The same goes for the things you write.

If you want to be more than a story hobbyist, you better do everything you can to hone your craft. All that time you spend watching TV or playing video games or surfing the Internet needs to be reallocated. You have writing to do, you have stories to tell, and you need to get better at both. If you aren’t actively trying to improve, you’re choosing to fall behind everyone else who shares your dream.

The world is full of storytellers, and there is a glut of fiction out there. Readers aren’t required to buy any of it, but they can be convinced they need what you’re selling.

You just have to put the best possible product on the shelf. Now get off the Internet, and get your ass back to writing.

Larry Jenkins is an aspiring Word Pimp. Has laptop, will travel. Let's make this happen, people.

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