Can writing save the world?

When I was a pre-teen (I guess they’re called ‘tweens’ now) I learned about the Peace Corps. I immediately knew that was what I wanted to do when I grew up. My mom encouraged me to write to the Peace Corps and find out how I could join when I graduated from high school. The rejection letter landed in the mailbox with a thud. Apparently times had changed from my mom’s memory of the Peace Corps. They no longer accepted eager, fresh, bright high school grads but were looking for college graduates with at least a B.A.  Determined not to put a damper on my dreams, my mom bought me the book “The Peace Corps and More: 175 Ways to Work, Study, and Travel at Home and Abroad.” I read that book cover to cover–highlighting, dog-earing, and flagging the pages.  Attending university, however, won out in the end and I enrolled in Clark University in Worcester, Mass.  I quickly declared my major in International Development and Social Change and began working towards a to-be-determined career in “Saving the World.”

From 13 to 30, I have always thought my career would involve working directly with people–helping people, having a direct impact on someone’s life.  International Development led me to the legal field which led me back to my restlessness which led me to sailing which led me back to saving the world which led me to law school applications.  Along the way I started writing for sailing magazines and discovered that not only do I have a burning desire to save the world, but I also really like to write.  Working in a small civil rights and employment law firm highlighted glaring inadequacies in the legal profession and my potential role in that field.  Law school admission deferred, I’m embarking on a writing career.

This has been a hard decision and took many months to accept, so, naturally, I still have lingering doubts.  Fundamentally, I am faced with the 13-year-old version of myself: can I save the world through my writing?  Librarians, writers, readers, Barbara Ehrenreich, Barbara Kingsolver, Michael Pollan and English majors will all respond with a resounding YES! But how will the asylum seekers currently being held in detention centers in the US respond? How will the newly-underemployed fishermen in Louisiana respond? How will the woman facing continued sexual discrimination at her job respond?  As I start writing full-time, hidden away with my computer as my co-worker, I am cognizant that I need to combine my two worlds, or that 13-year-old girl in me will start to get very moody.

My first article!

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3 responses to “Can writing save the world?

  1. Yes, your writing can save the world. Well, it can’t save the entire world – even “bestsellers” like the Bible haven’t been able to do that. But, if your writing saves YOUR world, that’s a start.
    And who knows who it will influence? Standing in line at the grocery store I often reach for the Reader’s Digest to thumb through, and in a recent issue I found what I think is a regular column, “Books That Have Changed My Life.” In that issue, the book was To Kill a Mockingbird. For decades now, in many venues, the protagonist – Atticus Finch – is held up as an example of a small-town but true hero. That symbol of integrity has no doubt helped many form their personal philosophy. Evolution (personal, social, planetary) is a slow and painful process; contribute in any way you can.
    In other words, you go, girl!

  2. Thanks Mik! (and way to set the bar for me…To Kill a Mockingbird…sheesh!)

  3. Three more thoughts about the value of ANY writing: sometimes, in an otherwise forgetable story, you come across a single image that sticks with you for years. Example: “A quiet mind can work in uninterupted peace, like a clock ticking through a thunderstorm.” Okay, okay, that’s from Robert Louis Stevenson, but you get the idea.
    Second, sometimes the value of a written story is not so much the story itself but just the time spent reading it, the visit to a world more ordered and rational than that of our sometimes mysterious lives, the respite from our worried thoughts.
    Third, sometimes it takes recognizing the same idea told in different ways through many books and movies over many years to help someone shed smaller ideas and gather the courage to incorporate those bigger ideas into his or her life. So, therefore, even stories less than wonderful also help put another brick in a foundation.
    So, you go, girl!

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