To be honest, the real world can be a pretty dull place sometimes. What with its lack of dragons, evil stepmothers, wizards, elves and magic rings, it can be downright boring. When we get to feeling this way, of course, there’s always a quick cure for us Anti-Reality folks –
Read a book.
Write a book.
Watch a movie.
Anything to engulf ourselves in a world far more fantastic and surreal than we view our own. After all, I mean, adventures are hardly knocking on our door. We feel gypped since we grew up with two nice parents, nice siblings, and perhaps a family pet or two in a pleasant neighborhood. How quaint. How normal. How… un-fantastical.
Escapism versus Visitation Rights
Being as human as you are (I sadly lack pointy ears and/or magical ability) it’s easy to find myself looking wistfully out the window and wishing there was something to see, other than houses lining the street or the fence out back. And therein lies the problem. We, as fantasy writers (or perhaps fantasy readers – let’s just say ‘lovers,’ it might be easier) find it very easy to get so wrapped up in our own imaginations that we tend to disregard the real things all around us. Your parent’s cousin coming to visit isn’t nearly as interesting as the dashing pirate captain in your head. Your little sister’s best friend is nowhere near as much fun to talk to as the adorable, red-haired, mischievous, freckle-faced little elven girl you’re currently writing about. We get so tangled up in fantasy worlds that we leave our own world behind… only to have our imagination dashed against the shoals of realism once we return.
And that can be disappointing… but it’s our own fault. When we feel our life is too flat, too boring, too gray, we slip into the colorful, fantastical life of a fictional character… and forget the difference between escapism and visitation rights. Yes, fellow dreamers, there is a difference.
Now; I do not believe there is anything wrong with fiction. (Well, provided you’re discerning, that is!) Nothing at all. Jesus himself taught in fictional stories. He even uses things we would see as… fantasy elements. (A woman clothed in the sun? Sentient trees crowning a bush their king? A raging, multiple-headed dragon?) However, he used them to illustrate a point, not to escape from the real world.
And there, I believe, is where we so often go astray. God put us on earth for a purpose, and it isn’t to constantly have our heads in a fictional realm. While there’s nothing wrong with visiting, becoming full-time residents probably isn’t the best idea. “But I DON’T,” you might argue. “I read books, and write them, sure, but I don’t live there.”
If you’re anything like me, you probably live there more than you realize. I find it very easy to live ‘inside my head,’ often to the annoyance of anyone around me. This scenario happens more often than I care to remember:
“The beautiful heroine screamed as she was thrown from her fiery black steed. A searing pain shot up her arm; she knew it had been broken. The sword! It was gone – no, there! The evil mage, sent from the very depths of darkness, held the shining blade in his own hand. His burning eyes turned to face her and he spoke in a hollow voice-“
“Mirriam! Hello? Are you with us or not? Do you like cheese fondu or don’t you?”
“Hmm? Oh, no, I don’t.” His burning eyes turned to face her and he spoke in a hollow voice -“
“You know, sometimes you need to get your head out of the clouds. You spend more time up there than you do down here.”
“Huh? No, I don’t!”
Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so. This is something that authors throughout the years have struggled with; even Jan Karon, author of the beloved Mitford series, wrote in Victoria Magazine that she had trouble remembering that there were real people that needed her attention, and sometimes she had to let Mitford go and leave Father Tim, Cynthia and Dooley on the shelf, where they belonged.
It can be hard, especially for writers. After all, our minds are constantly spinning, weaving the fabric of fantastic worlds. They’re exciting. They’re colorful. They’re peopled with wonderful characters. And they’re… not real.
There’s nothing wrong with visiting. Just remember not to over stay your welcome.