“Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for Introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye-contact while doing it.” ~ John Green
When I was a little kid, I saw a movie that changed my life, in most ways for the better and, in some ways, for the worst. In Search of the Castaways is a 1962 live-action Disney movie adaptation of a work by Jules Verne, The Children of Captain Grant and tells the exciting adventure of two children – with the help of an English sea-captain and an eccentric French professor – searching for their father, the titular Captain Grant who is presumed dead.
I believe this may be the first feature-length movie I ever saw, and it resulted in two personal developments: First, my preference for adventure stories over all others and second, my intention to become a writer. This movie introduced me to the French writer Jules Verne and for the rest of my childhood, I read every Verne title available to me. But my decision came from reading Verne’s biographies. More than any other writer’s life I read about, with the exception of Hans Christian Anderson, I connected to the story of Jules Verne: pushed to be anything but a writer by the pragmatic world he lived in, and pursuing that dream at all costs, even to the point of near-starvation in a single cheap room in Paris. He had a dream, he stuck to it against all odds and because of his perseverance, he gifted the modern world with the first wave of science fiction.
Telling people “I’m a writer” is a tricky business. Usually, I sense an eye-roll, an internal “uh-huh” from the other person; as if to say “right, but what do want to do for a living?”. On a technical level, anything you do that generates honest money is a living. The value of a product is determined solely by the seller and the buyer.
You may see someone giving me, a writer, $2.99 on Amazon for a story a complete waste of time and money on both ends: “What good does that story do you?” you may ask the buyer of his purchase, “that’s $2.99 you could have spent on something practical or simply saved for a future purpose.” But your hasty judgment of value ignores how many “non-practical” items you and every American spends more than mere pocket-change on every single day. Do you have internet? Cable? A house with more rooms than you need? Have you ever purchased a movie ticket? Bought and played with a deck of cards? Bought a snack at the grocery store or bought any unneeded food item at the grocery store for that matter? Yes. And these luxuries cost far more than the paltry sum an Amazon writer receives for his work.
When I write a book, I’m recording my imagination. And it may seem frivolous to buy and sell the records of another person’s imagination. We all have an imagination, after all – at least, I believe we do. But our imaginations are not the same in intensity, in form or in clarity. In a typical business, imagination is used to create a new business strategy, find ways to cut costs and beat the competition. The businessman does not focus his imagination on creating a world of wizards and knights, or Jedi and smugglers. But he may enjoy seeing the imagination of others who do focus their energies here. This is why people who work a “normal” job go to the movies, to rest their imagination and enjoy someone else’s creativity in another area.
And the relationship is mutual. I use my creativity to write books. But I need to rest my imagination sometimes and enjoy what other people create, both for relaxation and for eventual re-invigoration of my own creativity. And I don’t just mean other books or movies. I find joy in the creativity of business strategy, of science projects and design. As one of my favorite authors, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in his work “On Fairy Stories”, we are all makers because we are made by a Maker. Whether we make stories or furniture or discoveries or YouTube videos or ice-cream or businesses we are reflecting the vast and inconceivable creativity of the Master Creator.
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