Ever wonder what it is in this world that bends our thoughts, shapes our beliefs, and colors the world around us?

It’s books—more particularly it’s stories. The ones we read…and the ones we write.

When you look back on most of the people that are responsible for society and culture as we know it, do you know what most of them have in common? They were thinkers who presented those thoughts to others through their words. Even military leaders are only still known to us today because someone wrote about them.

Now, I know some people out there will only look at those nonfiction examples—and they ARE valid—but today, I want to explore the idea that fiction shapes not only our world—as a collective unity—but each of us. Each reader…and each writer. In some ways, each word we pen takes on life of its own, dancing straight off the page, weaving into the fabric of our society, and nudging it this way and that.

Think back to the first time a story—a novel, a short story—grabbed you by the shoulders and showed you the world through a new lens. How long ago was it? How old were you? Why is it still so clear in your mind? And for that matter, how many of the details of the story do you remember…and how much of your memory is centered around the impact it had—how it made you feel, how it left you changed? How many images are forever stamped on your mind that involve you sitting in a particular place with a particular book, and just feeling what it did to you?

That’s the magic of writing. It’s not just about creating worlds; it’s about changing the real one, one reader at a time.

The Philosophical Foundations of Writing

Why do you write? Why do you write the thing that you write? Why did he? Why did she choose this?

The moment you dive into those “why” questions, you’ll find yourself swimming through a sea of introspection. Because everyone’s answer is going to be different…and yet everyone will have an answer, and there will be echoes of similarity there too, rippling out from one writer to the next.

It’s where the personal meets the universal. It’s where the ink on the page becomes a mirror, reflecting not just what we see in the world around us, but our innermost thoughts and fears. Because writing isn’t just about the technical writing, crafting perfect sentences. It’s about the journey those sentences take us on—how they challenge us to think deeper, question more, and open our hearts to new perspectives.

Writing is a dialogue, not just between writer and reader…but between the many voices within ourselves.

Writing’s Impact on Societal Norms

Isn’t it fascinating how a few well-placed words can nudge the world? Let’s spend some time with this idea. Stories, especially fictional ones, have this uncanny ability to shift the ground beneath us, reshaping societal norms and values with the gentlest of pushes.

We all know how nonfiction does this. A powerful true story will resonate with people…but fiction? YES, fiction! Fiction can do this too because it creates archetypes; it tells what is true on a deeper level, through what could be. Regardless of how much of it comes from the writer’s imagination, story is still the thing that connects one person to another. It’s what engages emotions. And ONLY when emotions are engaged does someone consider change.

Writers are quiet revolutionaries, armed with nothing but a pen and a vision of what could be.

Take To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, for example. This isn’t just a story; it’s a seismic shift in paper form, challenging readers to confront the ugly truths of racial injustice and the purity of a child’s perspective on right and wrong. Or consider George Orwell’s 1984, a chilling prophecy that echoes louder in today’s digital age than ever before. And there’s Dickens’s Oliver Twist, which awoke society to the plight of children on the streets, challenging people to do something to help—a challenge that English society answered with reform.

These aren’t just books; they’re blueprints for understanding and, ultimately, for change. Because they don’t just tell us “something needs to be done.” They show us what that “something” would look like.

And here’s the real kicker: the impact of these stories extends so far beyond their final pages. Because they linger in your mind, and in mine, and in theirs…that means they linger in the collective consciousness. They spark conversations. They inspire action. And sometimes, just sometimes, they pave the way for real-world change.

This is a reminder that, as writers, the worlds we create can resonate deeply with the real one. And through that resonance, we can influence thoughts, beliefs, and actions in ways we might never fully comprehend.

Moments of Transformation: Tolkien and Kafka

Let’s turn our attention to other voices whose narratives have stirred the pot of cultural consciousness. We’ll start with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings not only became the epitome of epic fantasy, but it did it by transcending “mere fantasy” to delve into themes of friendship, sacrifice, and the battle between good and evil. How did he do it? Well, Tolkien wasn’t just writing from his imagination. He was writing from his heart, his hurts, his hauntings. It was Tolkien’s experiences in World War I that inspired his portrayal of Middle-earth’s struggles; Hobbits, he claimed, were directly inspired by English infantryman, who came from humble villages, who trudged along doing what they were told, but who understood family and community in a way their officers didn’t. Tolkien took his own personal loss, what he observed about the resilience of the human spirit, and wove them into a tapestry of epic storytelling. His ability to transform personal adversity into a universally beloved saga exemplifies the profound connection between a writer’s inner world and their literary output.

Tolkien, in the trenches of WW1, didn’t accomplish all that much. Tolkien, with a pen in hand from his hospital bed, built worlds that would forever change ours.

But he’s far from the only example. Let’s move to a whole different sort of story, dreamed up by Franz Kafka. Now, I will be the first to admit that Kafka isn’t my favorite writer, because his stories leave me deeply unsettled…which is the WHOLE POINT. Kafka’s exploration of alienation, existential dread, and the absurdity of modern life in works like The Metamorphosis invites readers into a profound dialogue about the human condition. One meant to make us squirm. One meant to make us uncomfortable. One meant to stick with us because of its vivid, sometimes ridiculous imagery. Kafka’s writing, steeped in his own struggles with identity and societal expectations, challenges us to confront OUR own fears and insecurities. In some ways, his fiction is just an imaginative personal anecdote.

Which proves that personal anecdotes have the power to resonate deeply and widely.

These authors show us how writing can serve as a conduit for personal transformation. Because they show us how an idea can transcend from one person’s experience to become something capable of touching the lives of countless readers across time and space. Their stories, unique yet universal, remind us of the profound impact our words can have, urging us to explore our own “why” with honesty and courage.

 “Why do we write? It’s the question that haunts every blank page, every blinking cursor. But it’s also the key that unlocks the door to deeper understanding and connection.”

The Responsibility of Writers: Exploring the “Why”

So let’s ask it again.

Why do we write?

It’s the question that haunts every blank page, every blinking cursor. But it’s also the key that unlocks the door to deeper understanding and connection. For Lee, Orwell, Dickens, Tolkien, Kafka, and for every writer who’s ever dared to dream on paper, the “why” is as varied as the stories they tell. It’s a reflection of their hopes, their fears, their unyielding desire to make sense of the world around them.

But while the “why” might start with the writer, it certainly doesn’t end there.

Consider this: every reader who picks up a book, who dives into a story, brings their own “why” to the table.

Yeah, just stop for a second and think about that. Read the sentence again. Pause to ponder.

You as a writer bring YOUR why…and they as the reader bring THEIRS. They’re seeking understanding, empathy, escape, inspiration. They’re seeking entertainment or education or explanation. And they come not just to us, but to our books.

What will they find within them?

Our job as writers isn’t just to tell our stories…it’s to ask the right questions. How do you feel when the hero falls? When the heroine charges forward? When the dragon swoops down? What drives you to turn the page? These questions bridge the gap between writer and reader, inviting a dialogue that transcends the written word.

This dive into the “why,” this dance between question and answer, is where writing becomes more than just a craft. It becomes a journey, a shared exploration of what it means to be human.

Writing as Philosophical Exploration

Here’s the thing—writing is NOT just about putting words on a page; it’s about exploring the vast landscapes of human emotion and thought. It’s about wrestling with big questions, about staring into the abyss and finding the courage to write about what stares back. This is where writing becomes more than a craft; it becomes a tool for understanding, a bridge between disparate worlds, a beacon in the dark.

Writing is about staring into the abyss and finding the courage to write about what stares back.

Writing’s Ethos and Impact

So, dear writer, remember this: your pen is powerful.

With every story, you have the chance to reshape the world. To challenge, to inspire, to unite.

Embrace the journey, the exploration, the responsibility.

Let your writing be a reflection of who you are and the world you wish to see. Because, in the end, writing isn’t just about creating; it’s about connecting, about changing not just our own worldview but helping others to change theirs too. Let’s keep the conversation going, shall we?