I caught the writing bug in second grade. My story, Blurp and Bob Visit Venus, a thought provoking take on what happens when two aliens get so caught up in the excitement of their journey that they end up forgetting their luggage, won runner-up in the 5-8 year old category. Looking back, I credit seven-year-old me with Rowlingian social foresight in making the main characters two males enjoying a vacation together (take that Dumbledore).
I put that interest aside to play it safe and spent over a decade accumulating university degrees. The first couple didn't fit well. Communication Studies was a Hieronymus Bosch-style Hellscape of memo writing and endless metaphors about onion layers. Then law school taught me there are worse things than death, the possibility of having to wear a tie to work five days a week and make small talk with other lawyers chief among them.
It was my third degree (B.A., J.D., now Masters in History) where I discovered the joy that comes from telling a story well. The artistry of rebuilding lost worlds, cultures, and lives. I researched for months to write my thesis and then years for my dissertation; all to reconstruct the experiences of long dead slaves, slaveholders, robber barons, and progressive politicians and judges.
Yet, the big empty spaces discomfited me. The lost conversations, passions, dreams, and ecstacies that tumbled into the gaping abyss that we call the past haunted my thoughts. We all know, even if we often don't fully appreciate, that every other person, alive or dead, has/had an internal world as valid and complex, convoluted and hypocritical, as our own. In losing that, we lose much of their humanity.
And this is the beauty of fiction. Entire universes can be constructed from the firing of the hundred billion or so neurons bumping around inside my (and your) head. These universes teem with life and energy of their own, enjoyed by writer and reader alike, and often surpassing what is available in the mundane. Amazing worlds where wardrobes open into new worlds filled with half-goat men who hang out by lampposts, where the fate of multiple races are controlled by fashionable finger-wear, and even planes of existence available by running through a brick platform wall at a cleaner-than-it-ever-would-be-in-reality train station.
Who wouldn't want to write?
Now enjoy these images of neurons compared to other things.
Or, watch this excellent (and short) video on science, art, and big picture connections.
And, if you want to go full geek. Try this.