“Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger.” ― Ben Okri
A lot of time I come across people, online or offline, who restrict themselves to non-fiction reading. I have also met people who will look down upon you if you mention a piece of fiction you read or want to read. I was one of them until last year.
The major reason why people disregard fiction is that they think non-fiction is the only kind of writing they can learn something from. Reading fiction is nothing more than watching a movie or tv show for fun. Something people do to pass(or waste) time.
To start with a simple example: if you have to make sure a kid understands and remembers the lesson you are trying to teach her, which one would you choose:
- Give her a speech that logically explains the lesson
- Tell her a story with the lesson ingrained
In most cases, most of us would prefer the second approach.
But when it comes to teaching ourselves a lesson we usually ignore this.
We might think that as adults, we can directly read and understand the lessons or philosophy without going through the additional details in fiction, when we are not even sure if we will get the lessons we are looking for. By doing this, we are either intentionally or unintentionally ignoring our emotional side and its power.
Given that we think of being able to acknowledge our emotions as a power and not a weakness, It’s easier for fiction to talk to our emotion, making the lesson we are getting more effective.
A story may not give us cooked and ready to consume lessons. In most cases, we have to look for the lessons to take away. So we might just be acting lazy when we choose a book that promises to tell “10 ways to become successful” over a story of a successful person.
When we are going through a struggle in our life, it is at least as effective to listen to the story of someone going through the same as reading five best ways to go through it.
Despite our ability to learn and understand logic, we remember and use it better if someone presents it as a story.
If we are trying to convey an idea, we are better off presenting it as a story.
Many non-fiction books tell a story to make sure readers get what they are trying to say.
In fiction, we can find the company of people fighting the same issues.
If people read fiction just for entertainment, fiction cannot be blamed for their inability to find and learn the lessons.
And sometimes, finding a few moments of escape from an intolerable reality can be empowering and life-saving.
By avoiding fiction, we are just missing out one of the most effective ways to learn. Even if you write non-fiction, you can learn better ways to convey ideas from fiction.
I personally find it exhausting to complete even a short novel. I end up losing track of the story, not to mention all the characters and other details, in most of the cases.
Instead of rejecting fiction as an inefficient way of learning anything valuable, I am starting with short stories to develop the skills required to appreciate fiction.
“Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.”
― Terry Pratchett