What does that mean for writers?
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119 years ago, eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote the editor of the Sun, asking whether Santa is real. Most of us have read Francis Pharcellus Church’s response, still printed in newspapers across the country every December. We recognize his familiar words, “No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.” (full article)
But is Santa reserved only for children? Does growing up mean sacrificing our imagination, our sense of wonder, our believe in fantastic dreams? Does adulthood bar us from that place where we are in control of our reality, where the so often repeated line, “You can be anything you want,” still rings true?
Twenty One Pilots has a song called “Stressed Out.” Whenever it plays in the car, I find myself singing along at the top of my lungs because the lyrics strike me so deeply.
We used to play pretend, give each other different names
Growing up means gaining responsibilities. No one can live without money. Whether it’s your own dollar paying your way or someone else’s, basic needs must be met. Virginia Woolf argued for the importance of a “room of one’s own.” What would she have said about a writer without a roof over her head? There is no such thing—without food, water, and shelter, no one can create art. Basic needs come first and, of course, require money.
But most worthwhile endeavors in people’s lives happen in spite of this necessity and obligation to make money. Consider the things that make this money-scramble infinitely more difficult—having children, pursuing low-yield (or even expensive) hobbies, adopting pets.
Money is by no means the only factor in what we choose to pursue during our lives, and yet it is the primary argument for dismissing our passions and forgetting our dreams. Writers hear it again and again. Stories won’t pay the bills. Grow up. Get a real job.
Does growing up mean forgetting Santa Claus? Does growing up mean forgetting art?
While adulthood brings greater responsibility, it also brings the ability to take action, to pursue the dreams hovering in our imaginations. No, growing up does not mean forgetting Santa Claus! It means turning him into something real. It means holding on to the dream while finding Santa in our own lives. It means recognizing our passions and understanding them to be the only thing about this life that is real.
Childhood dreams are about creating abstractions. Adulthood is about turning those abstractions into reality. Never forget Santa Claus, and never let anyone tell you writing is not worth the time.
Hand an adult a roll of money on Christmas morning, and watch the disappointment appear in their face. Money could never compare to the magic of opening a wrapped gift—untying the ribbon and tearing the paper. It’s not about the value of the present. It’s about wondering what’s inside and realizing the thought and care behind the gift.
Our writing dreams are wrapped presents, brought by our own Santa Claus. We spend years untying the ribbon, decades peeling away the paper. What’s inside is not important. It’s the magic of unwrapping, the beauty of changing them from gifts in your imagination to a printed book in your own two hands.
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