This past weekend I caught up with entire run (thus far) of The Unwritten, a fantastic series from Vertigo comics brought to us by the writing talents of Mike Carey and the artistry of Peter Gross.
I feel that I will destroy the series’ primary conceit by explaining it to you. By committing The Unwritten to words I may end up diminishing its power, so here’s my attempt to defend it: it is a story about story. Its main character is fiction, and the supporting cast is us — everyone and anyone who reads.
It began mundane enough. A man named similarly as the world’s Harry Potter-figure turned out to be more similar to that character in more ways than one. Soon enough he was journeying through various stories, myths, and tropes as he undertook one quest after another. First he sought his father, the man who created him, and eventually he ran after the source of the magical strangeness that has suddenly befallen his life.
It’s a gripping story, really. And one that my words can never — should never — do it justice.
But what caught me was the notion of how we create worlds through our words. I used to write a lot. However, a malady has struck me in the recent years of my life that has rendered me unable to write.
I remember, then, how writing got out of hand. I was literally creating new realities for myself that, ultimately, crumbled back into the fairy dust that it was. My excuse was that I was growing older. I took on more responsibilities. I had to be more mindful of the things I said; I had to be conscious of the effect my words had on others. The final conceit that killed my writing was thinking that the energies I devoted to writing would be put to better use working in the real world. I took on my teaching more seriously. I took on training leaders more seriously. I took on life, as a whole, more pragmatically. Everything was reduced to cause and effect, self-interest and collective gain, and actions and consequences. Along the way, the magic left.
Thus whenever I gaze onto a blank page or an empty screen to type, I do not see white. I see a blinding darkness. The page, which used to be my free sky, became a door that refused to budge open. A world of words was locked away from me and too often I grappled to find the key. But then I read The Unwritten, and within it I found some clues.
That perhaps, the reality I see before me now is not too different from the one I’ve written and ran away from before. The only difference is that this latest story was not made through words, but from ideas made into action. After all, they all come from just one source and it is to that source that all these stories lead. Too often I’ve felt that most of my life went on to be unwritten, but they’re actually still there. What I need to do is to acknowledge they exist so that they can come to life, and then perhaps I will be free.