The scope of the community building process is so large that there is a space for everyone to contribute their talents, whatever this talent might be. One can imagine my relief to know that my love for writing can be used for this same purpose. The question of course then becomes how.
There is always a catch, isn’t there!
Needless to say that one of the benefits of writing is that the one wielding the pen has omnipotent power over the people he is writing about. And just like with any power, it can be used to either highlight man’s lower nature or underline his higher nature. One only needs to walk down the aisles of a bookstore to realise that its shelves set the stage for a battle between literature that arouses physical passions and literature that inspires a commitment to nurturing one’s higher, spiritual nature.
Writers who want to contribute to the betterment of the world are therefore in the enviable position of reimagining reality through stories that inspire readers to aim for higher levels of excellence. A well written book can underline the evils that exist in society—racism, poverty, prejudices, violence, etc.—and imagine realistic ways that they can be remedied. But we as readers have to accept that despite what surrounds us—or what we think surrounds us—there is a better alternative available to us that only needs volition to see the light of day.
As with any book, I have received many an email following the publication of the first volume of Spirit Within Club in 2011. These emails can be sorted into one of three categories. For the most part, the emails were part of the first category, that of fans of the book, and barely a handful were of the second category, i.e. those who intensely disliked.
The third category—emails from readers who liked the book but found it too unrealistic in its relentless optimism—is the one that to this day intrigues me the most. The children were too perfect; the adults were too nice; everything tied up too neatly. I recently reread the first volume of the Spirit Within Club before starting on the second one during NaNoWriMo 2014 and it struck me yet again how normal the kids in this book are, and how sad it was that readers found them abnormal in the level of excellence they achieved. But their comments still affected me, and throughout the month of November, I wondered if I should make the kids in the series less good.
As of a couple of days ago, I embarked on another writing project and very quickly I started being assailed by doubts. In this YA book, the main protagonist is someone I know very well; she is the friends I had around me during my own teen years; she is the youth that I work with; she struggles just like my friends did, just like the youth that I work with do to this day. She is the youth that society doesn’t seem to acknowledge as being the norm, but that I find myself surrounded by.
Amidst the noise created by sensationalistic articles about the plummeting norms of society and the increasing debauchery of the younger generation are lost the countless stories of excellence. How can we consider the bar so low, when there are so many stories around us about the heroism and selflessness characteristic of that age group?
I realise now that the emails of the third category that I received are the very reason why I need to continue writing about the struggles of the normal young people in our society. In a way, I am contributing to a change in the message we are sending the younger generation through the media available to them. We need more stories that look at the thousands upon thousands of youth who are working hard on becoming better individuals and contributing to the betterment of their community. We need to stop focusing so much on the few that misbehave, and be inspired by those who shine bright. My contribution to this comes in the form of my books. The Spirit Within Club series will continue to feature kids and youth who, although imperfect, try hard to be good people. And the as yet untitled YA book I am currently working on will hopefully also do the same.
Image credit: Chad Mauger.