I never understood how people got into writing. Throughout elementary, junior high, and high school, I hated to write. It was frustrating, tedious, and I just didn’t have any ideas for stories. A writer was never an answer to those school questions of what I wanted to be when I grew up, because I wanted to be an astronaut or firefighter. But I think that’s typical for most kids, because at that age, they aren’t big readers or writers. I think firefighters or police officers, or other typical elementary answers to the “what I want to do when I grow up” question are chosen because kids at that age can see the effects of those career paths. The rewards are tangible. A firefighter can put out a fire and everyone knows that the job was accomplished.
But writing is so much more rewarding. It took me years to see that, but I finally can. Writers have so much influence over people, and there’s a lot of variance to how that influence can be seen. Look at how spread out Tolkien’s influence has become. The Hobbit was originally published in 1937 and yet people are still adapting it into, albeit an overlong and CGI-heavy, trilogy of movies. Hundreds of books come out because those authors were inspired by Tolkien’s world building. I can see ghosts of Tolkien’s work in authors like Terry Brooks (The Sword of Shannara) and Christopher Paloni (The Inheritance Cycle). Even music has been influenced by Tolkien. Bands like Led Zeppelin (Misty Mountain Hop, Ramble On), Megadeath (This Day We Fight), and solo artists like Enya (May it Be and Lothlórien), have songs referencing Lord of the Rings.
Kids can’t see how much power writers have, because they don’t a lot of exposure to anything. But as we grow up, writers in the past influence us, even if we aren’t reading. Through extensive reading, I’ve been able to see how large of an influence writers have. It doesn’t matter if only one person has read the piece, because that person will be changed through reading the piece. Even if the change is small, or negative, you as the writer have caused the alteration of a stranger’s life through words alone. And while conveying a story is all well and good, I think that the true value of being able to write is that ability to influence how other people think.