More than 300 years before the common era began, a man by the name of Plato wrote a book called The Republic. The ideas in this book were influenced by a Greek philosopher by the name of Socrates. The reason I mention this is the ideas encapsulated in that book have influenced approximately 90 generations of men and women, and formed the foundation upon which Western Civilization was built. One book changed the course of billions of lives.
Leaders Are Readers
Harry S. Truman, former president of the United States, is quoted as saying, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”
He says this, and it is true. Those who lead are readers who read to find knowledge, gain perspective, and find help in overcoming challenges. They allow themselves to be influenced by the thoughts and ideals of others. Being a reader allows you to travel back in time and learn from men long dead, to unpack their stored knowledge and experience and acquire it for yourself. It allows you to break barriers of time and space to connect with and learn from other people. This is why leaders are readers.
Readers Follow Writers
However, hidden in this important truth is an even more important one. All writers are leaders.
When you pick up the pen to write an article or a book or a poem or a song, you are setting yourself in the position of leadership. It doesn’t matter whether you intend to lead people or not. They will read your work, or listen to it, and they will be influenced by what you have written. This is just as true about fiction as it is about non-fiction.
A piece of writing can inspire greatness by encouraging readers to find the courage to do what is right, or it can lead them into dangerous paths by encouraging them in what is selfish, vain, and harmful.
Writers: Choose Carefully
To my fellow writers, I caution you to choose with great care how you use your words. What you write may only ever be read by a handful of people, but that is enough to change the course of human history. Men like Hitler were influenced by the books they read to doing the things they did. Hitler was one man, but he destroyed the lives of over 6 million men, women, and children, started a world war, and all because of ideas he got from reading. It only takes changing the life of one person to change the course of human history.
Of course, writing can change it for good, as well. It can bring peace where there is war, hope where there is doubt, and it can bring healing to lives that have been shattered. It is up to you to choose your words carefully, to think about where you are leading your readers before you step into the role of leadership.
Where Are You Leading Them?
You have a gift for writing. You have a mission to share that gift. But what is your message? This is what will determine where you are leading your readers. Will it be a message of hope? Of healing? Or of hatred?
Are you encouraging your readers to become their best selves, or their worst?
It’s okay to talk about dark topics, things like rape and incest and murder. But be honest about it. Give a full disclosure. Don’t glamorize it by leaving out the details like the damage these things do. Don’t fail to show the way these things destroy both the one who is a victim and the one who victimizes. This is where most fiction books, and even some memoirs, fail their readers. They aren’t honest. And the lack of honesty betrays the trust of the reader by leading them into harm’s way.
Porn is a perfect example of dishonest fiction, and it leads to the degradation of both men and women as objects to be used rather than persons to be loved. Are you creating porn, or are you creating art? Your honesty will be the difference.
If I write a memoir and I leave out the pain and the hardship and I only show the good things that happen to me or that are done by me, I am writing porn. It isn’t helpful. It leads people to develop unrealistic expectations for what they can expect if they follow in my path. It can lead my reader to bitter disappointment that they do not experience the results I put before them and to feeling like they are all alone in their struggle.
If, however, I have the courage to be honest in that same memoir and I show the reader every dark moment I faced and every battle I had to undertake to overcome my own selfishness and stupidity, I am giving them a clear picture of what to expect as they follow the path I walk. I help them find courage in the dark parts of their own journey by reminding them that there is something greater ahead, and I help them to know that they are not alone. There are others out there engaging in the same battles they are. I give them hope that, like me, they can overcome it and achieve victory.
So write honestly. Hold nothing back. Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, because they are counting on you for that.
Fiction Is Not a Lie
This doesn’t mean you can’t write fiction. There is a difference between writing fiction and telling lies. Both lies and fiction involve telling a story that isn’t true, although it may be based on truth. However, the difference is that a fiction reader knows, and gives full consent to it knowing that it is not true. They are doing it to be entertained.
A lie is a betrayal because it seeks to portray as truth what is not true. This is why lies are bad but fiction writing is not. Fiction is meant to be truth revealed through example.
Write, Because Readers Need You
Write. Because readers do need you. They do need to hear your voice. They need you to share your message. They need your help to make it through and make sense of a tough world. But know that when you write, you are taking on the mantle of leadership, and you must be aware of that power as you write.
Generations are listening.
Comments Are Welcome
I love to hear from my readers. Are you ready to step up to your role as a leader?