I was thinking the other day about a film I saw a few months back. It was “The Rookie” starring Dennis Quaid. If you haven’t seen it, it is the true story of a middle-aged man who gets a second chance to try out for major league baseball. He leaves his family and job behind and hits the road. At some point, when things get tough, he loses sight of his goals. Disillusioned, he considers quitting. While out walking on day, contemplating his future, he passes a group of school kids playing a game of baseball. He realizes that these children are playing for the sheer joy of it. In a “eureka” moment he turns to a colleague and says: “Do you know what we get to do today Brooks? We get to play baseball!”
Sometimes when I’m writing I forget why I started in the first place. I get so caught up in the desire to succeed that it becomes a chore and I lose sight of the sheer joy of writing. I mean, how many people can say that they get to create worlds in their spare time? We start with a blank sheet or paper or a flashing cursor on an empty screen and before long we have created a living, breathing universe full of living, breathing characters with their own distinct personalities and lives. Without us, these worlds would not exist. Without our imaginations these characters would never have a chance to share their fears, triumphs, loves and disappointments with anyone other than ourselves.
These worlds may not be real in the physical sense but that does not diminish their value. I don’t know about you but when I read a book, the world becomes a part of my experience. I may not be able to reach out and touch it but the memories of that world are as real to me as my memories of anything else. Lord of the Rings is sheer fantasy but, in my mind, the Shire is as real as any other place I have ever visited. When I walk through a field or reach the top of a hill, I am reminded of any number of hills and fields from my past but also, somewhere deep inside, I also remember the Shire and the Hobbits. The Shire only ever existed inside Tolkien’s head — until he wrote it down and others had the chance to experience what the author had dreamed up.
Writing is the ultimate creative pursuit and we can use it to enrich the experiences and memories of whoever desires to follow us down the road we have walked in our imaginations. What a privilege that is, to build a universe and then make it part of the history of another person. What a joy that is. To paraphrase Dennis Quaid’s character: “You know what we get to do today? We get to write stories!”