Doug Dvorak's Blog


The Inspirational Power of Literature

Out of all the forms of media throughout history that have inspired the common person, literature is one of the most persistent and longest lasting.

Literature stands apart from many other mediums to the point that it is often considered to be its own category, while most other mediums either fall under art or journalism, though they may intermingle depending on the medium. While not having the same glitz and glamor as film or video games, literature is often more respected and usually better stands the test of time.

Literature has the power to directly communicate the thoughts and ideas of a single mind and forces you to use your own imagination and reasoning to engage with it. Literature is intimate and speaks directly to you, whether you are listening to an audiobook, reading it on a laptop or tablet, reading a physical book by the window, or even some combination of the three.

Literature has inspired so many people throughout history if you count scrolls and what is written on stone tablets or even when those stories were told orally. They have built our ancient-mythologies, folktales, and religions, have created characters, stories, and worlds far before any film could bring them to life, and have given us the perspectives of thousands, both alive and gone. These have inspired many great things and knowing how can help us understand how literature is so important.

Telling a Story in Detail

Much like most other mediums, the point of literature is to tell a story, which is immensely powerful all by itself. Whether it be the characters that we interact with, the world we witness, the plot we watch unfold, the themes we engage with, or the atmosphere we immerse ourselves in, all of these things have inspired people. They have inspired how we look at the world, the ways we wish to face it, and even to tell our own stories for some.

Books have the advantage of being around a lot longer than most other mediums and have inspired countless works and ways of thinking afterwards. From Frankenstein inspiring the creation of the horror genre, to A Christmas Carol making Christmas popular in the United States, and even Fahrenheit 451 challenging people’s perception of censorship. These stories have passed the test of time and their stories have become a large part of the public consciousness, inspiring and influencing many people and our current culture.

However, literature has a unique way of personally inspiring individuals who engage with them, their intimacy and detail. The way that people interact with books makes it a lot more personal. We cannot engage with it passively like with a movie, we have to be there, turning the page, reading it and engaging with it, paying attention to what it has to say.

While other mediums may also require your undivided attention, literature does it far more consistently and to a much higher degree. Literature forces you to use your imagination while reading, paying attention to the details to determine how something looks, smells, sounds, and ultimately how everything plays out. How we imagine and interpret something is all our own, thus in tandem with how closely we engage with it, it makes reading a book more personal.

This level of intimacy makes it so that something that would inspire us in a film, like a character or theme, can be even more effective as we have a closer relationship with it.

Literature also has an advantage that almost no other medium has, the ability to go into as much detail as it pleases. The level of detail that we get out of a book, from fun facts about the world to the inner machinations of a character’s mind, provides a level of understanding and depth to a book that makes it a richer experience and can make you feel like you get more out of it.

Books like The Lord of the Rings were thought to be unadaptable because of how much detail and depth in them. While that was proven incorrect, many who have read the book admit that a lot of it had to be trimmed down for it to work.

Further, the way an author uses those words and the details provided cannot build upon the experience. While there are some books that prioritize clarity and telling the story in a direct manner, there are many books that use its prose to be poetic and use the provided details to create a mood and atmosphere that can enrapture us into the world that book wants to create.

While this urge ought to be tempered as there are many that go too far and create something overly flowery and borderline incomprehensible, the beauty of the written word is something that can also be inspirational and allows us to imagine the beauty of the world.

The way that literature tells its stories not only provides the aspects of storytelling that already inspires, but it also creates a more intimate and often richer experience, which can make those inspirational feelings more impactful.

Moreover, because it forces us to use our imagination we are more inclined to think about what we read, allowing the ideas to stick in our brains for longer and allowing what we read to have a more personal impact on us as we all interpret things differently.

Spreading Ideas

John Milton, the author of Paradise Lost, once said: “Books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are … Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God’s image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye.” To Milton, destroying a person’s ideas was just as bad as killing a person and used to oppose censorship and book burning.

Books have the power to share a person’s point of view and inspire us with a person’s ideas. This can be both a good and a bad thing as there are people who have spread heinous ideas through literature, but there have been just as many, if not more, that have forced us to look at the world from a different perspective. This can influence our worldview and inspire us to do things we would not have considered before.

Through literature a person’s ideas can be fleshed out and described in a more direct, nuanced, manner, as opposed to through the filter that most other mediums would force it to go through. Literature can inspire people by making them want to share their own ideas in a similar manner or by allowing themselves to be influenced and develop an understanding of another person’s perspective. It can also allow for some self-reflection on the part of the reader.

In this way, literature has the power to inspire others by allowing us to have a deeper understanding of a person’s thoughts and has the power to influence us through how we engage with those ideas. Thus, their ideas can inspire us to a more powerful and less muddied degree.


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