Writers Are Sorcerers

Have you ever wished you could change reality just by uttering a few words?

Who hasn’t?

We remember every magician or wizard story we’ve ever read. We remember the enduring appeal of stories like Harry Potter, the enduring allure of characters like Gandalf, or the enduring mystery of characters like Merlin. The sorcerer archetype has been around for a very, very long time. It has been a part of human culture ever since our ancestors first picked shamans and wise men to communicate with reality on their behalf.

We all know simply uttering “wingardium leviosa” won’t levitate a book and speaking “mellon” won’t open locked doors. Incantations and magical items don’t change reality. Matter and energy don’t seem to work that way.

But to dismiss the sorcerer idea as pure child’s play is a mistake.

Truth is usually stranger than fiction, because fiction – or rather, metaphor – is on one of our best ways of understanding our world. There’s a reason the sorcerer metaphor is still so powerful: words do change reality, just not in the way the sorcerer stories explain it.

Writers and speakers and poets and wise people all change the reality around them when they use the right language. A few words can motivate an oppressed nation to rebel, turn grief into joy, bring down the powerful, or transform ugliness into beauty – all without changing a single bit of physical matter. Books and plays – think the Bible and Shakespeare – can exercise extraordinary power over the shaping of civilizations and empires when their authors are long dead. You can go from broke single mother to making a bajillion dollars (hat tip to J.K. Rowling).

While our words in the real world may not take the form of incantations, they are just as powerful as spells when they come as poetry or plays or novels or essays or speeches. They’re no less “magical” – wondrous and a bit mysterious – than “magical spells” because they simply require more words.

That’s right: if you are a writer, you are the closest thing to a real sorcerer the world has ever seen.


The key question now is this: are you a good sorcerer or a bad sorcerer?

Are you a Gandalf or Saruman? Merlin or Morgana le Fay? Dumbledore or Voldemort? Moses or the Pharaoh’s wizards? Words carry great power to build or to destroy worlds. If have written anything, you have already used your words to bring the world either closer to destruction or closer to enlightenment.

If we take the vocation of writer as seriously as we might take a discovery of “real magic,” who knows how we might approach our task differently? What we do as a hobby, a habit, or a way to make money – our writing – is actually one of the most powerful tools available to humans.

Don’t use your power unwisely. 

Which reminds me: I have a few failed experiments myself, so I’d better get back to work before the real sorcerers notice I’ve borrowed their hat.

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James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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