It may come as a surprise that I, a lawyer and advocate, am dedicating a month to writing a fiction novel. You might wonder if this is just some flight of fancy, or if I am going off brand. Find out why I write fiction and how the mental exercises involved in worldbuilding and writing affect my outlook for everyday life.
This post is part of a month-long social media takeover by writer and owner Lisa Schmidt in honor of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In addition to writing blogs, web content and legal briefs, Lisa is a fiction writer. During the month of November, she is taking a break from legal writing to focus on the more creative side of the craft. Learn more about NaNoWriMo and follow Lisa’s 30-day writing journey on Your Law Geek’s Facebook or Instagram pages.
I Write to Escape
Let’s face it, living in the world these days is hard. Life, news, politics, work – they all can trigger a lot of stress. Every successful entrepreneur has to find some form of self-care that allows them to escape the everyday grind and recharge for the next round. For me, that’s writing.
My escapism through writing started very young. When I was in elementary school, my mother worked as an administrator for our church. During summer vacations and other times off school, my sister and I would spend hours in the empty church building trying not to bother our mother so we could get home sooner. Engaging activities were scarce, but scrap paper was plentiful. And so, I began storytelling.
Each day, I would come up with some new adventure for my sister and I to explore. We would create and draw characters, cut them out, and then play out the fantasy story until we were ready to go home. At the end of the day, those cut-outs would go into the trash, and we would start over with a new story the next day.
As I grew older, my escapist storytelling became more formalized, and longer lasting. I began writing stories in high school and college, as well as roleplaying with other creative storytellers. Together, we developed stories that would span weeks, months, or even years. My longest-running plotline is now 15 years running. All these stories gave me an outlet to escape everyday stresses, and take a break from the issues of the day.
I Write to Explore
Writing speculative fiction especially, also gives me an opportunity to explore the extraordinary or the fantastic. I am a deep thinker, about everything. I sometimes question very basic assumptions about life, especially about the things I read or watch on TV or in movies. The science fiction and fantasy genres give me space to question “what if” and engage that deep-thinking part of my brain in a way everyday life does not.
I was an English major in college. This meant I spent many hours reading classic literature. My favorite class was gothic literature. Spanning from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (written in 1818) to Bram Stoker’s Dracula (written in 1897) this course was full of tales inspired by 19th Century Europe’s fascination with exploration. We read about sea monsters and fantastic words at the polar ice caps or in the center of the earth, all through the lens of the dauntless explorer.
Modern science fiction and fantasy writing shares that same sense of exploration. In it, readers get to explore new worlds with new civilizations and impossible magical systems. It has that same sense of wonder and anticipation of the unknown, and I love playing within those worlds.
I Write to Empower
But fiction writing isn’t always about entertainment. It’s not just a pastime or something to escape the mundane. Sometimes, a well written fiction novel – especially in speculative fiction or women’s literature – can call into focus the challenges of everyday life in a way no blog post ever could.
When I write speculative fiction, what results often empowers those who might feel ostracized by real world. Even when I don’t go into a project intending to make a statement my writing often revolves around themes like women’s rights, the LGBT community, religious norms, or some other societal problem. This may be a form of subconscious processing on my part, but when those drafts are published they can also empower my readers. To paraphrase an overly used and misquoted phrase, I write the change I hope to see in the world. And by publishing that writing, I encourage readers to envision it with me.
Writing fiction is more than just a playful release. It gives me an opportunity to explore deep thoughts about our assumptions about the world, and empower readers to move toward a fairer and more just world. Even if my story this month never makes it to press, the thoughts inspired by its exploration will influence my own understanding of the world, and that is why I write fiction.
Lisa J. Schmidt is a writer, owner of Your Law Geek, and facilitator of Chasing Your Tale: Building Your Writer’s Toolkit hosted by the SheHive in Ferndale, Michigan. If you want to write along with Lisa, sign up for her weekly write-in sessions during NaNoWriMo or contact Lisa directly here.