Looking for Magic
The six-year old me used to believe that somewhere in the middle of every busy city, well-hidden in crowded places and noisy streets, there were secret portals leading to magical worlds. I often found myself ruminating over the idea that inside manholes and through glass mirrors, a larger universe homed mystical creatures like fairies, witches and talking animals which my favorite picture storybooks and animated films confessed to be true once upon a time.
Growing up, I probably spent more time with fictional characters than with other kids of my age. After school, I looked forward to watching cartoons with my mom and younger sister. Even after we’d seen some episodes five times or more already, we’d still laugh at the same punchlines and scream during the most exciting parts like we did the very first time we watched them. And every night before bedtime, my dad would read to me Aesop’s fables or Filipino legends. I figured the whole point of the storytelling was to lull me to sleep but I don’t remember ever getting bored or sleepy while listening to any of them.
Instead of having adults directly tell me what to do and what not to do, I’d rather learn new stories with moral lessons. Wouldn’t it be better to know the famous fable of the turtle who beat the hare in a race than have your father tell you overconfidence could be a weakness? Isn’t it more appealing to hear the story of the girl who was allegedly turned into a pineapple than have your mother straightforwardly say indolence has a terrible consequence?
For the longest time, fictional stories served as my life guidelines. Reading even became my favorite escape route whenever I experience random episodes of my self-diagnosed depression and existential crisis. Not that I’m antisocial but more often than not, good books offer better advice and better company than real people.
There had been times when finishing full-length novels stirred up an emotion medley similar to what I had felt on my graduation days. Part of me was happy for reaching a milestone yet part of me was sad for having to put away something precious that’s already done. But the largest part of me was always just curious and dying to answer the question: What the hell happens next?
In the course of my reading history, last sentences of stories never gave me any sense of closure. Being acquainted with protagonists and antagonists as well as their personal battles somehow made me feel that they were just as real as I am. That their lives continue even after a supposed ending. That their worlds go on as mine does. They’re so real to me that sometimes I wish they could know me just as much as I know them.
It felt like magic, you know, to feel a deep connection with characters whose lives depended on words moreso to feel a sense of belongingness in worlds that mainly exist in pages. I wanted to interact with whatever and whoever’s on the other side of the universe— find out what really makes up a happily ever after and maybe discover the untold life of a minor character. Maybe that’s why the thought of writing fiction fascinated me. I wanted to know more about these alternate realities which I have always considered home. And what better way to know them than be the one who creates them.
Crafting stories wasn’t as easy as I imagined it would be. Before taking formal literature and creative writing classes, I assumed writers can simply call the shots and play god the same way Yahweh did in the Creation story in the book of Genesis. Let there be light and there was light. Let there be animals and there were animals. I thought that as a writer, I have the same absolute power and control. I have never been so wrong.
For example right after my mind demands “Let my main character’s wizard father win the lottery and buy a red Lamborghini,” an image of my creative writing professor raising an eyebrow would flash in my head. Then voices from nowhere would start interrogating: Why would a wizard try his luck on the lottery? What were the winning numbers and where did he get those? How relevant is a specified red Lamborghini to the plot of the story? Why this, why that? I wish I can use the optimist card and say: Why not? But man, it’s a mortal sin for a story maker to simply leave it at that.
Most people think that when writing is your passion, writing becomes an easy task. They have this notion that for a writer, writing is just as natural as inhaling and exhaling air. I wish. But I don’t breathe words; I bleed words.
There were instances when I’d spend a full hour staring at a blank MS Word document after ten attempts at typing the supposed best first sentence. There were moments when I’d use a good ten minutes checking both the thesaurus and the dictionary just to find that single perfect verb or adjective that can describe a certain emotion impossible to be encapsulated in a single word. And just to make sure I’m stitching ideas the right way, every now and then I would check the article I bookmarked in my browser entitled: When to use a period/comma/colon/semicolon/dash. Better safe than sorry.
It’s already a daunting task to produce a sensible paragraph, even more so to create a world founded on the coming together of countless paragraphs that try to tell a story. The art of writing could be mind-wrecking because there’s no formula for a masterpiece. There isn’t any default “blueprint for a breakthrough.” When you already have certain amount of talent and dose of will, you only need one more thing: luck. But luck tends to be such an unpredictable bitch.
I wonder if the rest of humanity will ever hear about the worlds I have yet to create and if they will love it. I wonder if I’ll ever see my name printed in a cover of a book and if my story will be someone else’s favorite life guidelines or best friend. Yeah, that’s pretty much the big dream. And the scary thing about dreams? They’re as elusive as the secret portals leading to magical worlds I terribly wanted to find back when I was six.
After many years, I stopped searching for them.
I stopped searching when I reckoned they’re within me all along.