the purpose of fiction


some musings on writing, purpose, and the purpose of writing

this semester, I've been taking two creative writing classes— one on poetry and one on short fiction. in the latter, we've been talking a lot about the purpose of writing fiction & what fiction should aim to do or accomplish. that's going to vary from writer to writer and my classmates have given varying responses. I have my own thoughts on the subject, but because I'm too cowardly to actually speak up about them in class I'm putting them here.

long story short, I think fiction— writing in general— just has to exist.

I'm someone with a pretty weird relationship to the idea of purpose. I've spent a long time chasing goals that were set for me by someone else (doing well in school, getting into college, etc.) to the extent that I'm not sure what my ultimate goal or reason for existence is. my relationship with emotions is best described as distant, which doesn't exactly help. it's hard to figure out what I want out of life when I have very few emotional cues to help me figure that out.

as such, most platitudes about the purpose or meaning of life kind of fall flat for me. I can't earnestly believe that the purpose of life is to be happy, for instance, when I don't have a well-defined idea of what makes me happy, or what happiness even feels like— I wouldn't want to continue to exist, knowing that my existence would ultimately be meaningless.

the only resolution I've found to be satisfying is that existence is a purpose, or a meaning, in and of itself. it's the only one that gives everyone the same chance at a meaningful life regardless of ability, race, class, other circumstances of one's birth that are out of one's control. we all change the world by the fact of our existence, and to me that's purpose enough.

so too for my writing. I don't write to try and make my reader feel something— that's not a way I relate to other people's work, and it's not a way I need people to relate to mine. I don't try to be thought-provoking— whatever thoughts my reader organically feels are enough for me. I write because I have a story to tell, or an experience I want to share, or something I want to work through. all of these are satisfied by the mere existence of my work. it doesn't need to do anything else— just exist.