Thursday, April 2, 2009

Why I Want To Be A Writer

Ever since I was a little kid, I was writing stories. Most people who want to be writers will tell you that. It is a rather trite thing to say at this point and, truthfully, it doesn't come close to answering why you want to write. Do you want to write because you've been writing ever since you were little?

Sometime yesterday, I said to a friend, "You know, I really miss the Harry Potter books."

I didn't mean I want there to be more of them. I'm certainly not looking for HP8 (heresy, I know, but the series feels over to me). "Over vacation, I want to go back and read Book One," I said. Because that is what I miss. I miss the magic.

The magic in Harry Potter exists not only in the world of Hogwarts. It exists in the way the words travel around your senses and pinch your imagination in little sparks, nudging you here, then over there, then a little to the left, to the right, until you are in love. You don't even know what you are in love with, but you are in love. You want nothing to exist in the world except you and the book you are reading. What's more - it is your book. You don't want to share it with millions of fans. You want it to be yours and yours alone. You want to sit cross-legged on your bed with your hair falling over your face as you read avidly, devouring the book 'til the very end, when you can turn right back to the beginning and devour it again.

But as you sit there on your bed alone in the absolutely lovely world your imagination has created, millions of other children are sitting in the same exact position, equally stirred by the same exact words. If a giant were to stand on our planet and look down at the world, it would see millions of children engrossed in books. And not just children. Teenagers. Adults. People who have sworn off reading long ago. Children who can't be paid to read for school. Everyone.


That sight must be one of the most glorious sights in the world. Just imagine every being on this planet pausing in work, in games, in war, in fights, in stress, in time and together stepping through a portal to another world, to a world which hugs you and shows you that evil truly is evil and good is quite good indeed. That it is not the power we have but the choices we make that matter.

"It is our choices, Harry, that show us who we truly are, far more than our abilities," says Dumbledore.

Imagine making the choice to write a book about making good choices. A book about friendship. A book about family. A book about love. About courage. About strength. About never giving up.

In a documentary, J.K. Rowling was asked, "How do you want to be remembered?"

"As someone who did the best she could with the talent she had," she said.

You can watch that part of the documentary here, though I would recommend started from part one if you have time:

We never know what is going to happen to us in our lives. For me, I'm at a significant turning point. I have a little over a month and a half left of college and then...that's it. Then I'm on my own. I don't know what that will come to mean and I don't even know how much I'm looking forward to it, but I also know that by not looking forward to it, I am betraying my more adventurous side. I am suppressing the magic of possibility.

In The Once and Future King, King Arthur, when he is a little boy, gets turned into various animals by Merlin as part of his education. He turns into a fish, a hawk, a goose, even an ant. Later, when he has already become king, Merlin asks him, "Do you remember anything about the magic you had when you were small?"

"No. Did I have some magic? I can remember that I was interested in birds and beasts. Indeed, that is why I still keep my menagerie at the Tower. But I don't remember about magic."

"People don't remember," said Merlin.

When I read that passage, I was overcome by a profound sadness. Only children can experience magic because only their minds allow for that possibility. As they get older, they enter "reality" and all possibility for magic vanishes.

What J.K. Rowling did was reignite the spark of imagination. There don't have to be spells and witches and flying broomsticks in order for magic to exist. Magic lives in the imagination and imagination is what helps us see possibilities in this world.

Writing brings the world to life and that's why I want to write. I want to be involved in the world. I want to be part of the magic. I want to speak to people, but not on a platform. I don't want to be famous like J.K. Rowling. I just want people to pick up something I've written and feel like I've written it specifically for them. I want to explore my world and then share it. I want to make a difference to someone.

I want to bring out the magic.

Most importantly, though, I want to look back on my life and say, "I did the best with the talent I had."

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