Magical Thinking: The Power of Story

In our interview, author Kate Moses raised the topic of magical thinking about the ways your writing can impact the events of the world or your life. We’ve been talking about this in the Book Writing World, discovering that we all have our superstitions about the power of story, of words, to influence outcomes in life: if you kill off the parakeet in your book, what will become of your own little Popo? If your protagonist is older than you are, will the book be published only once you’ve passed her age? On and on . . .

This is the kind of worry that one often keeps to oneself, and it is a surprise to discover a lot of writers partake in this kind of magical thinking. On the other hand, words and stories have shaped our lives in very real ways as readers. Who hasn’t felt her sense of self shift, or even his mood alter because of the events in a book? Whose life isn’t made up of fragments of the stories we’ve imbibed as much as by those we’ve lived? It is because we are readers whose lives are shaped by books that we become writers. Little wonder, then, that we imagine that what we write might change our worlds, too.

The key, as Kate learned thanks to a friend’s generosity (see all in my upcoming interview), is not to let these superstitions stop you from getting the truth (fictional or not) down on the page. If writing is a form of playing with fire, we don’t want to douse the flames in order to avoid getting burned. Instead, we must learn to walk across red coals without fear. Or heck, with fear, sure: just keep on walking!

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