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The Kid With the Candlestick in the Colosseum of Dreams

I have things inside my head that are bursting to come out. This has been true for as long as I can remember. Words, images, characters, scenes, cities, cave systems, forests, circuses, libraries, labyrinths, wolves, moons, stars, planets, galaxies. Memories of things that have happened. Memories of things that have never happened. Ponderings of things that could happen. Fears, desires, regrets, mysteries, wonders. Also, cats.

They’re all bursting to come out.

Sometimes the things in my head are so jumbled and mashed up, I don’t know where and how to start letting them out. And by sometimes, I mean most of the time. It doesn’t help that the stories and songs in my head are intertwined with the dusty webs of anxiety and depression and pulled down by the gravity of adulthood. Every day is a struggle between energy, enthusiasm, imagination and fear, inertia, weight.

When I was a kid, the books, the movies, the TV shows, the comics I loved overwhelmed me with joy and awe, sparking my imagination. The only way I knew how to deal with my love for them was to steal liberally from them and use what I stole, expanding and mixing them with my own dreams, to make stories of my own. What I created was a tribute, an expression of adoration for the things I loved. I wanted to share these with other people, share my enthusiasm and love.

It was all so easy when I was younger. I wasn’t self-conscious about my writing. I didn’t worry about my writing being “original” or “sophisticated.” Writing wasn’t something I felt like I had to do, it was just what I did. Creating stories was a natural extension of consuming stories. It’s something that’s generally, tragically abandoned by our schools and authority figures as we get older. By the time I got to high school, there were teachers who actively discouraged me from creating. It was a “waste of time” or it “didn’t fit with the lesson.” I laughed at their scolding and disdain. I knew they were full of shit. But as you get older, school and jobs devour your time with work. Creative play is something you have to make time for instead of something you naturally do all the time.

But that kid I was still lives inside of me and he demands I play. He gets so excited about books, comics, movies, TV shows, plays, music, poetry, games. He races around with an intense smile on his face, his hands full of words, images, characters, scenes, castles, skyscrapers, candles, masks, skulls, trains, clocks, oubliettes, thunder and rain and mist. He grabs for pencils and pens and paper, he throws himself at the computer keyboard, and he begs me to write. He wants me to create stories and poems. He doesn’t care if they’re original. He doesn’t care if they’re sophisticated or clever. He just wants to express his love, share it with people, and hope they see something they love in it. He’s armed to the teeth with dreams, he’s kicking his feet out at the kneecaps of time and work and anxiety and depression and gravity, and he’s bursting to get out.

And this, this is why I write.


  1. Ridley Kemp wrote:

    Play is probably the best reason to do pretty much anything.

    Monday, July 27, 2015 at 10:39 am | Permalink
  2. Joan wrote:

    This is something my wife needs to read. She’s very self-critical about her writing. She gets discouraged sometimes, and I never know what to say. Now I do: “Go read this!”
    Thanks, Josh!!

    Monday, July 27, 2015 at 10:42 am | Permalink
  3. josh wrote:

    “Play is probably the best reason to do pretty much anything.” AMEN, Ridley!

    Thank YOU, Joan!

    Monday, July 27, 2015 at 10:57 am | Permalink
  4. Mrtawrites wrote:

    “Keep writing until you’ve said what you have to say.” – James Still wrote that to me on a postcard once, after he’d read one of my plays. I think that’s what we’re all trying to do. And we just keep writing because it’s so damn hard to express what we want to say. It can always be clearer, deeper, more precise, funnier, more visual, less heady, whatever. Keep writing. Just keep writing.

    Monday, July 27, 2015 at 3:28 pm | Permalink
  5. josh wrote:

    “Keep writing until you’ve said what you have to say.” YES, THIS.

    Monday, July 27, 2015 at 3:30 pm | Permalink
  6. Liz wrote:

    Thanks for sharing this – this is fantastic. I too write from a love of all things weird, wonderful, fantastical and imaginary. Films and books and everything! It’s also a love of the power of ideas. I’m currently writing my first proper novel, so excited to see where that will go. Keep going! (I found you via Chuck Wendig’s site).

    Wednesday, July 29, 2015 at 3:25 pm | Permalink
  7. josh wrote:

    Thanks, Liz! Good for you on the novel writing. I’m looking to get back into more fiction writing when summer is over and I have more energy and drive. :)

    Thursday, July 30, 2015 at 6:54 pm | Permalink
  8. Jeff wrote:

    Learning is fun when it feels like play. My great-grandmother knew this when she compiled the scrapbook that became ( the Earl J. Arnold Advertising Card Collection – 1885. Through that scrapbook her kids had fun learning about their world. Guess who’s playing with it now!

    Thursday, December 3, 2015 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

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