I first heard about author Neil Gaiman when my freshman year hall-mate read the Sandman comic series her freshman writing seminar. I thought The Graveyard Book was one of the best young adult novels I’ve ever read. Since when is death such a leading character/topic of young adult literature! (If you liked The Book Thief, read this for sure and vice versa.) I was very impressed by the transcript of his talk for the Reading Agency in the UK last night.
I was most taken by his emphasis on making time for reading fiction. Fiction is probably not one of the first topics health professionals make time for in their busy lives. However, Gaiman makes a strong case for making time to read fiction.
…fiction build[s] empathy. When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed.
Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.
You’re also finding out something as you read vitally important for making your way in the world. And it’s this:
The world doesn’t have to be like this. Things can be different. (Neil Gaiman, 2013)
Although health professionals are busy individuals, the need for innovation and pushing boundaries is great. So incubate your imagination by making a little time to read some fiction. And the place where you can go to get recommendations about a good book: the library.