Imagination in a Post-Harry Potter World

Writing is not a high art form or a talent based endeavor. It is an innate ability born into humanity and it deserves to be explored. Everyone should write a novel, for no other reason but that they can.
My first excursion into the world of fiction began when I was 9 years old. I wrote a story about Goop Stars, little green and blue blobs that competed with each other in nearly every aspect of life. I believe I was regurgitating some degree of the Olympic Games which I had just witnessed for the first time only a few months prior. Whatever the reason, I ended up writing numerous stories throughout my Elementary School tenure, increasingly longer and better received by my teachers and peers.

Things changed though and as soon as Middle and High School started up, writing stories seemed all too childish. That tends to be how those childhood obsessions fade away - a revelation of maturity that is a decade or so too early to be taken seriously. However, for a 13-year-old, ignoring the "childish" things you once did is almost as important as partaking of the "adult" things your friends are doing.

Eventually I came back to the writing though, finding a niche in a University program I didn't think I wanted to be in only to find that was exactly where I wanted to be. It was a strange, twisted path that led me back to writing stories.

Very few people ever publish works of fiction. Most don't even finish their stories and many don't even bother starting on them. The stereotype of the "writer" is often vaunted to the point that most individuals feel they are not good enough to put pen to paper. It's a hair better than the perception of writers a few decades ago - that of slackers and never-do-wells that can't get jobs.

However, it's a stereotype nonetheless and it keeps a lot of talented or creative young talent from trying their hand in the field. The main problem is that most people feel, as with almost any time devouring endeavor in this day and age, that they should be paid for their writing. Stephen King and J.K. Rowling are worth billions of dollars, so why shouldn't everyone else get a 12-country, movie, television and merchandising rights contract to their first novel?

But, writing is more than just a money-making endeavor or a showcase of innate talent. If J.K. Rowling has taught us anything, it's that a little bit of imagination goes a long way. The world has reveled in her work for more than a decade now and two generations of young people have been drawn into the realm of literature and away from their televisions because of it. However, mere consumption is not the only means by which an individual can enjoy their imagination.

Writing is an extension of the innate ability human beings carry to create an imaginative work from memory and experience. Everyone should write a novel; not because they need the money or because they have a unique talent the world is waiting to see. Everyone should write a novel because everyone has the ability to do so.

It's not about the work involved or the time required completing such a massive project. It's about the complicated collection of ideas and thoughts that we all carry around with us from the first day that our brains start to form cohesive memories. We experience billions of little moments in our lifetime and each one is unique. Putting those experiences to paper or screen is a privilege that few in the history of the world have had.

My call for universal novel writing is not the first nor the most expressive to arrive. Nor is there any shortage of writers actually doing so in the world right now. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short) is a November call to arms for writers around the globe to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. Last year was the eighth year for the event, boasting nearly 80,000 participants and 13,000 individuals with completed novels. Almost one billion words were written for the event.

No one expects to write a publishable novel during November every year, though a few have had their works published. The point of the endeavor is to challenge oneself to write for 30 days instead of watching TV or playing video games. The commitment is for a little less than 1700 words a day for a month, for most people no more than 1-2 hours, the same amount of time most people spend watching sitcoms and crime dramas.

That's not to say that everyone on the planet should spend their free time writing a novel. However, writing is a cathartic, relaxing experience - the kind that helps to clear the mind of troublesome thoughts and release stress. Even for those individuals not entrenched in the writing of fiction, there are somewhere between 100 and 200 million blogs online right now, each of them run by an individual with something to say. The internet, though another entertainment medium unto itself, has offered countless opportunities for individuals to write at length on anything they desire and find an audience. With that audience, individuals have been able to explore their creative underbellies.

Anyone can write. It doesn't matter if you are 9 years old and intrigued by something you saw on television or if you're 75 and simply want to write about the things you've seen in your life. Talent, training and marketability are all unimportant. The important thing is that when one writes, the audience does not exist. Everyone should write a novel, or a blog or a poem. It's a privilege few have been given and an experience no one would forget.
By Anthony Chatfield
Published: 8/6/2007
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