*by Jean Foster Akin*
“We all love a good story. We all love a tantalizing mystery. We all love the underdog pressing onward against seemingly insurmountable odds. We all, in one form or another, are trying to make sense of the world around us. And all of these elements lie at the core of modern physics.”
[Brian Greene, THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE, Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory]
Yeah. Physics. Did you think for a moment the guy was talking about physics? I picked up this book because of my interest in String Theory, or: the study of vibrating ultramicroscopic loops of energy—from which Professor Greene believes all matter comes. And there he was, in the Preface, page X, explaining the magnetism of a good story, the importance and love of words, the pleasure in the telling, that so beguiles the human race.
This struck me: that no matter what story it is that you are writing, no matter what story you are imagining writing, there are probably people out there who will want to read it.
Even a professor of physics and mathematics gets it, as my opening author’s quote proves. Brian Greene deals with numbers, symbols, and mind-bending theories related to quantum mechanics, supersymmetric quantum field theory, and particle physics. Yet, he gets the sublimity of stories, of words, written or spoken.
And he didn’t think he’d ever see his work published for a general audience because his proposal was rejected by his first agent due to the subject matter being “too specialized to attract a mainstream publisher.” But the audiences that gathered to listen to his general lectures on relativity and superstring theory were enthusiastic, so Professor Greene soldiered on.
As should you.
Everyone enjoys stories, some even enjoy crummy stories told poorly. Think of those people who live for the latest bit of gossip: they’ll squeeze the last drop from a juicy story. I’ve known people who don’t even like to read but who still love stories. They’re usually the type who rarely turn off their television sets, and who you don’t want to sit next to at parties if you have a secret.
But you get my point. You can get wrapped up in all the ways this story you’re writing won’t be something anyone will want to read.
But everyone has different tastes.
So write your story. Whatever your plot for fiction, whatever your subject for non-fiction, take your time and write it well. Don’t be cynical about this, thinking that whatever you vomit onto a page is valuable and will be read. Instead, write your very best for the people who love stories worth reading.
Whatever story you’re incubating inside you, just write it and see what happens. You may be surprised by how many people want to read it, whether it’s the story of cosmology, your forebears’ Atlantic passage, or a fun summer beach-read. You’ll never know unless you try.
[Jean Foster Akin]
PHOTOS: #1. Pleiades. Fienberg, 2016.
#2. True color mosaic of Jupiter, constructed from images taken by the narrow angle camera onboard NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on December 29, 2000.
#3. Photo I took a few years ago in Manhattan of one of many lovely patisseries in that city.
THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE, Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory, by Brian Greene, Vintage Books, a Division of Random House, 2003.