When I was trying to break in as a new writer, sometimes I would drag myself to my desk, asking the wrong question —Does the world really need another story?
Early in my career, I posed a similar question to a rowdy group of high school freshman who were not listening to much of what I had to say. Everyone knows you're not supposed to ask a surly crowd a question, especially a surly crowd of teenagers. But I did.
"Why are stories important?" I shouted. A boy in the back yelled, "They're not!" I was ready to crawl out the door and find another profession, but when you love something, you defend it. I hollered back, "Why not?"
A girl raised her hand: "Because stories teach us about life." I almost gave her money for that answer. It was the first time I ever led a group of students in an exercise developing a character from thin air. Who was this person? What kind of a family was he from? What kind of a heart did he have? What were his dreams, his fears? What kept him going…and on and on…
By the end of the assembly, we'd formed a living, breathing fictional character (that is not a contradiction in terms), and a boy in the back shouted, "You're okay, lady." I wrote that down and slept with it under my pillow.
Does the world need another story? I don't ask that question anymore, no matter how tired I feel. I know the answer—not just for my work, but for the millions of writers (published and yet-to-be published) out there. Absolutely, positively, and undeniably YES!