Thoughts About Fiction Vs. Nonfiction

It’s one of those amusingly paradoxical elements about myself that I haven’t yet been able to reconcile  completely. See, my logic and my ideals don’t quite match up, leaving me to shake my head and laugh at myself.

The reality is I learn a lot from reading fiction. I soak in the subtle lessons. I’m inspired. I see the cause and effect. The story sticks with me, and comes to mind when similar situations arise in my own life. Fiction helps me grow.

I write fiction because it’s not only entertaining, but it’s also a good way to get a point across. It’s a tool, a passageway to new thoughts, an invitation to life being more. Even Jesus used fiction to teach when He told parables.

And yet…Well, somewhere deep inside of me, I have this little voice that yells out that reading nonfiction is more mature. More spiritual. More achieving. More…just more. Having a list of nonfiction books on my “just read” stack makes me want to do a little victory dance and feel satisfied.  I’ve been somewhat confused about the benefits of fiction vs. nonfiction, so I’ve paid attention to my reactions during this last year.

At the very end of last year, I actually went on a nonfiction-only reading spree for two months. There were several reasons for this, and the insight I learned from my “fiction fast” was quite interesting to me.

One of the reasons I set aside fiction was because I’d had some health issues that left me easily stressed and feeling like I didn’t have enough emotional energy to give to the people around me. I was curious to see I might perhaps be spending emotional energy on fictional characters instead of real life people. Therefore, it was gratifying to come to the conclusion after two months that reading fiction actually helps me feel renewed and able to give out to those around me. I have several theories about why this is, but for the sake of the length of this post, I won’t go into them today.

Another reason I set aside fiction was because I thought it would help me read more nonfiction. Haha, that didn’t happen, either. In fact, during those two months, I nearly had to force myself to read the nonfiction books that I had on my list, instead of enjoying them like normal. That’s when I discovered that the balance of fiction and nonfiction really is important in my life.

In addition to not receiving the beneficial results I had imagined, I also began to notice several negative effects. The longer I went without reading fiction, the more my imagination struggled to keep up with my writerly life. See, I’ve always had a fantastically wonderful imagination and have gone through life with the wonder comparable to a little kid chasing butterflies. But, when I cut fiction out of my life, I began to feel more like a boring being existing, instead of really living. It took several months of hard, intentional work after I reinstated fiction into my life for me to feel as if I was flowing with creativity again.

That, along with the other discoveries I’ve made have quite throughly convinced me that fiction is important to me, maybe as much, if not more, than most nonfiction. And yet, yet, yet…I still feel more  accomplished when I finish a nonfiction book. This most likely stems from the fact that nonfiction is harder for me to get through, and therefore it generally takes longer and feels like more work than a fiction book.

During this last month I haven’t read any fiction books. (Although I have read a few chapters here and there.) This wasn’t on purpose, rather it’s because I requested a big stack of nonfiction books for review, and when they started pouring in, I was inundated with a to be read pile I had to focus on. In the last month I’ve read seven nonfiction books, am currently reading three more, and still have four more on my stack.

But do you know what? I might just have to slide a couple of fiction books somewhere into that stack, because fiction, like nonfiction, is very important and beneficial to me.

And that, my friends, is my quandary about how my logic and ideals don’t always coincide. Because really, just because reading nonfiction makes me think I should be more productive, that’s not always necessarily true.

* * *

What about you? Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction? And, which one makes you feel more productive?

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