Fantasy Writers and the Sense of Enchantment

There are many reasons why people write. Each writer has a reason of their own, and no two are exactly alike. Much of my writing is fantasy. Why that is so may help you understand your own impulse to write fiction of one kind or another.

Scene from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

Writers are often trying to recapture a favourite mood. Work after work is produced as they hone in on the cherished feeling tone, which can be quite specific and durable. (Image: public domain.)

Like so many people, when I was small I possessed a powerful ability to enter a state of enchantment. The feeling prospered until, at twelve, a broken heart drove enchantment from my life completely. How deeply we feel things at that age! Luckily, not all was lost. There were books in the world. My love of reading soon rekindled the magical feeling. It disappeared again during the trials and tribulations of late adolescence. This time I was more aware and made strenuous efforts to retain it. Those efforts were of no avail. The loss of enchantment made life seem grim and not terribly worthwhile. Thinking that enchantment was a thing for children, I entered adulthood in a sadly disillusioned state.

The urge to write then made its first appearance. I found that in writing I could reclaim some of the old magical feeling. A new door into enchantment had opened, one that even a grownup could enter. The need to make my way in the world soon pushed aside those early writing ambitions. Few things are as impractical as trying to earn a living by the pen. I settled into my decidedly mundane existence. Fortunately, and predictably, the desire for enchantment would not leave me alone. The urge to write kept gnawing away at me. At 40, after suffering a breakdown, I made writing my hobby, and soon found that writing activities such as keeping a diary or maintaining a journal or creating fiction are great ways to work through almost any kind of difficulty. A large part of my efforts during the ensuing long journey of self-discovery focussed on the reclamation of my capacity to experience enchantment. In a symbiotic way, my discovered ability to write well seemed inextricably interwoven with it.

Misty evening on the river

A misty evening river scene. Artists of all kinds are especially sensitive to mood or atmosphere. (Image: public domain.)

This business of losing and then reclaiming a particular emotional state or mood is quite common. Creativity researchers have found that artists of all kinds expend a great deal of effort on capturing particular moods in their works. Many artists specialize in one particular mood. The desire to recapture and share that mood, whatever it may be, is often the reason why an artist works. Here is the explanation for why my writing may depend upon, may be founded on, that elusive feeling of enchantment.

Those same researchers have shown that moods, and the taste for them, are very durable. In actuality – and this is what happens to many of us – my ability to experience enchantment never really went away. Life’s rigours kept it in the background, from where it kept trying to re-emerge.

Fantasy stories have never been as popular as they are today. This makes me happy. It means there are many people out there who share my love for the sense of enchantment. Some folks are able, or merely content, to satisfy the hunger by reading. Others feel the need more profoundly. They can only satisfy their taste for enchantment by creating their own magical realms, by writing, in other words. Either way, underneath it all is the potent allure of some cherished mood – propelling us to visit the bookstore in search of another reading adventure or to sit down at the keyboard and engage in the heroic act of creation.

Author: Thomas Cotterill

I am a manic-depressive made philosophical by my long struggle with the disruptive mood disorder, during which I spent sixteen years living as a forest hermit. I write philosophical essays, fantasy, and science fiction. My attempt to integrate creativity, psychology, philosophy, and spirituality imbues everything I write. You will find hundreds of related essays and articles on my blog. I live quietly in British Columbia's scenic Fraser Valley, a beautiful place in which to wax philosophical.

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