I wonder, what type of writing matters most in this world? Is it fiction, truth, or fictionalized truth?
Up until I was 16, I only wrote fiction, and only read fiction. I sometimes read and wrote fictionalized truth. But I loved and breathed fiction, it was an escape door that I always craved and always comforted me when I didn’t like reality. I liked to think that by writing fiction, I was doing the same for others. Many of my friends who used to read my fictional works told me so; that my made-up stories provided them a delightful escape from reality. Then reality grew difficult to avoid. So my fiction turned into fictionalized truth. Fictionalized truth is when you base a made-up story on true events, kind of like the fictional love story of Jack and Rose in Titanic, or the book My Brother Sam is Dead, which revolved around the events of the 18th century American Revolution, or A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini about The Taliban. Fictionalized truth can be based on anything. It can be based on your own life, a country’s war conditions, social change, some experience you heard of, something you’ve always imagined, etc. There’s two versions of fictionalized truth. One is when the reader can figure out which parts of your story are based on truth. The other is when only you, the writer, know that your so-called story is based on truth. You’re basically taking reality, writing it down, and calling it fiction. It’s a secret that only you and your words share; maybe your characters, if you let the real-life versions read it.
After fictionalized truth came actual truth. I quit fiction for a long time, then arrived to my Journalism class in 11th grade and found a reason to write once more. It felt strange, alien. Like dipping your toes tentatively into a pool because you’re not sure how hot or cold the water is. But with time, with practice, I loved it. I also had a really awesome teacher who showed us how deceptive the media could be, and how it was up to the good writers to expose the evils of propaganda. I pursued it the summer after I finished my Journalism class through a Journalism & Media internship at Al Watan. I clearly remember one of the guest speakers there talking to us about the importance of being a reader before being a writer, and what an important role reading played in developing your skills as a writer. He said that of all the books we should be reading per month, only 2% of them should be fiction – because truth was more important. He agreed that fiction was delightful, but he also believed that escaping was for people who were not strong enough to face reality. He told us that we had a responsibility towards our country and towards the people around us to tell the truth. So by reading truth, we would be learning how to write it. I can’t remember the last time I read a fictional novel since July, when I heard him say that.
Reading truth is enlightening, and it opens up your eyes to things that you may not have realized. It exposes oppressors and grants the oppressed a chance of rising up. It teaches you underlying meanings of things that you may have deemed to be superficial and silly. It gives you new perspectives of looking at things. It allows you to stay informed, to develop an opinion, to look at all the different angles and create your own vision. But if truth is all you read and all you write, your sense of imagination and the magic in your soul will eventually die.
So what does a person’s taste in literature say about them? Is a lover of fiction really just someone who’s afraid of facing reality? Is a journalist just someone who lacks a sense of imagination and magic? Is a poet someone who decorates his thoughts and feelings with fancy words? And which is most important? How do you know which path to pursue? Is it possible to balance them?