Writers develop a unique understanding of words, emotions, and ideas. Everyone learns a wide spattering of words and their meanings. But writers usually find themselves when they go beyond those meanings, and find the meaningful connections between words.
Some words form greater connections with others. Some words have limited connections they can make. But usually it’s the writer’s choice of words that leads to the greatest impact.
From that, writers learn how to describe people’s thoughts, motives, places, actions, and all other forms of interaction to reach a very core system in all humans: emotion. Writers learn that by finding words that connect to how one may feel about a given scenario will create a lasting impact, which is generally judged as good writing. And that’s how a writer finds their way to entertain, inform, or otherwise capture attention.
Writers used to rule the day. Scanning history while I write this, there are so many powerful titles out there, it’s truly hard to describe any one time where writers didn’t capture the biggest thoughts of their time, and were able to find audiences to inform, who went out and did inspired deeds.
Perhaps it’s because I’m living in this moment right now, but I don’t feel that we live in a very inspiring time.
I think we live in time where the idea of a writer scares the hell out of other people who carry influence in other aspects of life. I think people have seen narrative as something they can control.
This is something that writers all grapple with. Controlling the narrative. One would logically think that a writer controls their story, because of course they wrote it. They sent it to an editor who told them what they needed to correct, and they went back and exercised more control over that story. Their narrative.
Their are two types of writers: those that think they control narrative, and those who know they don’t. Writers don’t control the narratives of their story anymore than you control the weather where you live. You can pick up your things and move, and then you find warmer or colder weather, but you’ll never be able to control it.
True, a writer gets to derive their story idea, but the narrative only goes together a certain way. Even when writers plan their story, as they progress they usually find ways that the narrative changes. It can be slight, or it can be huge. Many writers detail the huge changes their story undertook as they wrote, when compared to their initial research and idea.
I write all of this to make this point: there are too many people in our world trying to control narrative. They are trying their best to make narrative fit in the specific way they want it to.
Politicians, Technology and Data companies, media corporations, and many others are all trying to control narrative. It may seem harmless, it’s only words after all. But it’s truly dangerous to attempt to control narrative. First, it’s disingenuous and it’s dishonest. Second, it’s ignorant. Third, it’s a spectacular exercise in failure, because that is the only way it ends.
Most writers know this all too well. Those that don’t will soon. In a book we can get away with controlling some elements, and frankly we can get away with controlling narrative in the technical sense of actually doing it. However, the books where we do it expose the effort to readers, and that tends to lead to pointed criticism, which shuts down potential audience. In the grand scheme of life, that’s a really small loss.
But when you apply this concept to bigger, worldly issues, it can lead to disaster.
Historically, we’ve seen this time and again. The Ming Dynasty, Henry the VIII, Richard Nixon, the 1919 Chicago White Sox, and far more than I can recite here have all taken their shot at trying to control narrative in one way or another, and every single time it has led to death and destruction.
We are experiencing a lot of people trying to control narrative right here at home now. From the national level, to the street in front of your house, there are more people trying to control the narrative – and in the past month I’ve watched countless people flat out deny the unfiltered truth, especially when it changes the very specific narrative they are imposing.
Life is far too nuanced for this approach to power to keep showing up, but here we go again. People who are taking over positions that looked up to for the first time, and they are making fools of themselves.
Maybe they haven’t learned this lesson. Maybe they don’t understand the power they have. Maybe this is how they’ve conducted themselves all along.
But what writers know is that they are playing a dangerous game. It will catch up to them. Let’s just hope it doesn’t catch up to the rest of us too.