Thursday, November 16, 2006

Why I Write

I once read somewhere that in order to be a good children's writer, you have to still be a child at heart. The idea stuck with me, because in many ways that's true. I still find myself drawn to the things of my youth...yet at the same time, I definitely see how some of that childhood has eluded me as I've aged. It helps to have children of my own, though.

My wife once noted how when a little girl asks to play Barbies with an adult, for the adult it pretty much amounts to bouncing the Barbie-doll around in front of the child while she plays along, acting everything out. It's true, too. In fact, it made me self-conscious of the fact that I tend to do the same thing with my own daughter now. I guess grown-ups have a harder time getting into the roll of Barbie and really playing it out.

Yet, when I was a kid, my friends and I would spend hours with our Matchbox cars, which it seemed could talk to each other...except that we knew that it was the little people inside the cars talking to each other, despite the fact that there weren't any little people inside the cars. Imagination.

All this is leading somewhere. Because I thought I'd share a moment from my childhood.

When I was a kid, as I wrote in a previous blog entry, I was fairly obsessed with superheroes. My next-door neighbor, Shelley, was also my best friend, and we played superheroes practically daily. (Either that, or "kidnapper", for some reason.)

Anyhow, there was a time period where the two of us tried to convince the other that our superheroes were real. Not just constructs of our minds, but real, in-the-flesh people. It started innocently enough, having our imaginary super-friend that we, of course, could only see. But it grew from there. I remember once going into the bathroom and having this conversation, loud enough for her to hear, with myself. Of course, I disguised my voice, which I'm certain fooled her into believing my superhero was with me. Soon, she did the same thing.

And then, there were the infamous "Autograph books". Do you remember those? It seemed that everyone had one...expensive books with nothing but a bunch of blank colored pages to have your friends (or famous people, I suppose, if you knew any) sign. So, my superhero signed my autograph book. I disguised my handwriting, of course. So there it was...proof of the existence of my superhero.

Except she didn't believe me...so I had to sneak and swipe her autograph book and sign it using the same disguised writing, never letting on that I had gotten my hands on it.

This whole thing went on for an entire summer. Neither of us would budge, and both of us became increasingly clever at how we were trying to prove how our superhero existed. I revealed facts and secrets about him that of course only a friend of a superhero would know. She did the same.

And finally, the day of revelation...the day we both fessed up and admitted it was all a hoax, which we both already knew anyhow. Yet we believed that we had made the other believe it all.

Isn't that so typical of childhood imagination? Not just the worlds and situations we imagine...but the self-delusional things as well. Truly believing that we have convinced someone that something is true (in this case).

Sometimes I miss that...because I think that it is a power far greater than super-strength or being able to fly. It is the power to exist in a whole other world.

And that is why, today, I write.

1 comment:

Melanie Lynne Hauser said...

It's the power of imagination, Ryan. And all writers still have it!