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I am paraphrasing from a friend’s Facebook wall her question: “How would a teen-age boy who is going to work with his hands ever use Literature of England in his work?” The age-old “How am I going to use this in real life?” question. How would you answer it?
I’m taking that to mean English/British Literature and if someone ever asked me point blank how they would ever use something from literature and therefore fiction, if we get really basic about it, in real life I’d have to say that I use it all the time. Take out the fact that I’m a writer of course and just address it as a reader, there is so much you can learn from books, both non fiction and fiction, that I think sometimes people don’t realise how much they actually take away from fiction itself (even fiction in all media).
There’s the more obvious structural learning from it; learning proper grammar, sentence structure, and all that fun stuff. Then there’s learning about different ways of addressing people and even learning manners. I think people can take it very narrowly with what they can learn from something. It’s like having blinders on and not seeing the bigger picture or using the imagination and that’s another thing that I think someone can take away from literature and reading; being more creative and thinking further a field. If someone works in manual labour or with their hands, doesn’t it help to be able to think in broader terms or to feed an imagination that can lead to greater creativity and abstract thinking in their field? Abstract thinking that could help further a career perhaps?
Then there is the more personal and mental aspects of it, such as seeing something from a different perspective, or considering another person’s point of view. I find that fiction and books helps me to do that more than I’m sure I would have without books or generally stories in my life.
And if you learn about the stories behind the stories, the creators behind the stories, there’s so much you can learn and pick up from their lives and what they’ve been through. Writing takes discipline, perseverance, and getting to know your short falls and what you can achieve if you strive for it. Plus, because literature and fiction are set in all sorts of different times, you can learn so much about history. Maybe that doesn’t make a difference to someone in manual labour, but I can’t see why not, I don’t see why that should make a difference. It all comes down to perspective. If something is written in a certain time you can learn about it and with a bit more research or reading between the lines you can also learn about points of view from that time and how it has changed. There’s so much to learn from it.
I’m probably going way overboard on this one aren’t I? I know I have and I’ve completely gone off the actual question, but I can’t help myself. When someone asks me what they can learn from something or even give me an inkling that they can’t see anything else except what’s right in front of them, then I have this voice in my head that wants to scream at them. It wants to grab them and shake them and ask them how they can’t see all the paths that lead from even the simplest littlest thing. How they can’t learn from something that seems trivial or common place or not fitting in with their lifestyle because there is so much going on with what they take at face value. Usually I don’t voice it because this is what it sounds like when I do….
Now if this was my nephew, I’m sure he would have switched off after the first sentence and gone on about video games instead so maybe a one sentence answer – you might learn something about yourself that would enrich your life.