Writers as Magicians?

The word magic gets thrown around loosely and can have many different meanings, depending on the context. For a child, the world must seem forever magical as s/he explores and constantly makes new discoveries. Even for adults who have retained their childlike enthusiasm for life this state still exists. Seeing sunrises or sunsets that astound viewers with color variations is just one example, but so, too, is the miracle of tiny, dried-out seeds eventually producing plants that can nourish us. Those who have done a little gardening know how magical this process can be.

But even as I describe a few ways in which magic makes its appearance daily, I’m doing something quite extraordinary. Through arranging letters on the page, I create words that then call up associations and images in a reader’s mind. Everyone has seen a sunrise or sunset and has visual memories of them. Yet not only do I make such things appear for readers, but I also can weave these words together in a way that they make a statement: “The color coral streaks across the sky at sunset, chased by bruised cumulus clouds that cradle canary yellow. And above all that rests the robin’s egg blue sky, not yet aware that dark will soon descend on it.”

The words make sense! And it isn’t just writers who have this special power. We all do.

There is a difference, though, between words that make statements, that relay information, and those that conjure up other worlds. Again, one needn’t be a writer to do this. The oral tradition has a very long history, and storytellers/bards have had an important role in entertaining and instructing their listeners. While many singer-artists still carry on this tradition, it’s also broadened to include those of us who, metaphorically but some actually, take pen in hand and write a wide variety of poems and stories.

Writing, then, in itself, is magical. It opens us to possibilities we may never have considered if someone hadn’t taken the risk and dipped into his/her memory bank, unleashing settings, situations, and characters, both familiar and unfamiliar, depending on how much the person’s imagination was activated. I’ll never write another sentence without being aware that these letters I’m plunking onto the computer screen are amazing in their power to tantalize, a great response to those who may think that what we’re doing as writers is not magical. It’s true that anyone can write sentences. But not everyone can create new worlds!


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