When I was in kindergarten, I would steal books from my teacher’s shelf and take them into the bathroom with me. I know – weird – but it’s much nerdier than you think. Basically, I took the books to the bathroom so that I could learn to read while the rest of the kids were playing. Apparently, I was a little bit of a loner.
While I can’t remember exactly what books I stole, I do remember how they made me feel. They introduced me to worlds that didn’t exist in real life, to characters I didn’t know I needed, and to stories that made me see beyond what was right in front of me.
When I was in middle school, I wanted to solve the mysteries that plagued the pages of Nancy Drew novels, I wanted to start a babysitting business with a group of friends, and I wanted to meet the monsters where the wild things were. As I got older, I waited impatiently for my Hogwarts letter and eventually I did, unashamedly, wish for a vampire boyfriend. As an adult, I still routinely make references to the books I loved like Winnie the Pooh and The Giving Tree.
These books weren’t just a piece of entertainment I cast aside when I was through with them, they were important moments in my life. They held meaning. They taught me how to be a better person, and they gave me something to believe in. Between the lines on overcoming bullies, appreciating what you have, and standing for what you believe in, I learned compassion, empathy, and understanding.
When I experienced difficulties in my life, I found books a refuge from the chaos. I could escape into the pages and pretend I held the magical abilities to vanquish my enemies, achieve all of my goals, and fix all the world’s problems.
All because another human had a creative thought that they scrolled between the pages of a hardcover book. That’s magic.
As Heschel once said, “Words create worlds.” And writers – we create those words. Our characters can teach lessons of acceptance to our children and become their best friends. Our plots can reignite the desire for love and compassion in our lives or inspire us to reach heights we never dreamed possible. Our descriptive language can move our readers to tears or lull them to into a deep sleep. And we do this without ever meeting the people our words will touch.
If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.