Just last week I sat down for dinner with a family who has young children. The oldest started a conversation with me over dessert, asking if I knew about the large ball that is located in the middle of the world. My first response was, “Oh, the earth’s core.”
His response was a scoff, and a condescending, “No! A ball. And if you turn it, the world will crack,” which efficiently grabbed my attention.
Since I had never heard the geography of the earth or its physics described this way, I was immediately intrigued with his take on the way our world is structured, and did what few adults ever did with me as a child: I entered into his world. At first he didn’t seem to know whether I was taking him seriously or just seriously crazy, but soon we were building on each other’s ideas of what we could do to visit that “ball.”
We speculated about how we’d drill down to the middle of the earth (starting our journey in Alaska, of course) and find tiny people living there who would be terrified of us, but afterwards would fill in our footsteps with water and use them as oddly-shaped swimming pools. Then, once we arrived we’d turn the ball, and the continents would shift, too.
The point of recalling that conversation is to reveal how wonder so often passes us by in the midst of our practical daily lives, even when we sit down to write fantasy or fiction. No matter how fantastical the world is that I might be writing in, if I don’t get a good dose every now and then of the core of my storytelling – wonder and fairytales and believing in good and impossible things – my storytelling grows stale, and my characters lose their sparkle and spunk. Not to mention my enjoyment in life itself.
For me, talking with children and encouraging them to nurture their own understanding of life and its mysteries is a fail-proof way of renewing my creative well. But maybe you don’t have children around you who are eager to talk with you. What gets your wonder stirred up? What leaves you breathless and yet ready to write?
Do you head out to nature, or the middle of a crowd to people watch? Do you stargaze or go online to check out wacky science facts? Is there an author who brings out that feeling of discovering the world for the first time in you? Or is that what you are aiming to do with your story?
I’d love to hear what refreshes your wonder meter.
Katie, signing off
*Credit has to go to Emily Tjaden for her insights into the role of wonder in fairytales, which helped bookend my thoughts on wonder this week. Credit also goes to Noah L. for believing the center of the earth is a ball that can be turned. Thanks, buddy.