I took this snapshot on a magical night in 2008 when I looked toward the heavens for the first time and realized there were stars and a moon and magic in the air in a world supposedly only made of bits and bytes.
Housed on a server perhaps thousands of miles form my corporeal self, Old York was the creation of Roland Wampers in Second Life. I wandered its buildings and hidden grotto with a sense of wonder for weeks on end.
When I met the creator himself, he carefully kept his identity hidden from me at first. He wanted to know what I thought of his creation and didn’t want to scare me off from an honest answer. What did I say? Well, I gushed.
I remember saying something about feeling as if I’d stepped inside someone else’s imagination. How they’d managed to paint a 3-D picture of their inner world I could step into and experience while standing next to them. It was like walking through someone else’s dream.
Discovering Old York will forever stand out as a flash point for creativity in my own life. Like so many civilizations, it’s gone now and these snapshots are all that remain, along with many fond memories. I still mourn its loss. It’s the same sense of loss I feel each time I finish writing a novel.
While writing, I create a world and its inhabitants–paint a picture in my mind’s eye. Put it out into the world to share. Then, for me, that experience evaporates, leaving only a memory and a shadow of something wonderful on the page. A novel is like this snapshot–an imprint of my experience in the universe I inhabited for a short while. My only link from my imagination to you.
When we begin to create, it’s for ourselves. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how my characters will play out on the screen of someone else’s experience. While I don’t know for sure, I’m betting Roland didn’t think about it at first either. For my part, it’s too mind boggling and weighty a responsibility to contemplate that what I’ve written might affect someone else as profoundly as Roland’s work in Second Life affected me and my desire to create.
Our experiences form the sum of who we are, and without my days and nights dreaming in Old York during an otherwise turbulent time in my life I’m not certain I would have become the author I am today. I am guessing I passed on a little of Roland’s legacy to Nara Malone who now keeps a residence of her own in Second Life, and who has taken the journey into virtual worlds much deeper than I ever did. I admire her for that, and am a little in awe of her creations.
We never know how we will inspire others. Or when. Or exactly when that spark will pass from us to another, or from them to us. When it does happen, it can be the stuff of dreams. It’s a weighty responsibility, this act of creating, but one that I’m glad so many of us keep venturing to attempt. Each time we do, we share a bit of that spark of what makes us human as we reach to touch the divine.
As I finish the follow-up novel to No Apologies, titled Acting Out, this weekend I’m entering the phase of creation where I snip that golden thread and begin the journey of handing the story over to you. I hope the journey it takes you on will be as joyful and transcendent as it has for me. At times turbulent but never dull, Acting Out is everything I hoped for when I stared up at a night sky in Old York and dreamed of the ability to bring my own worlds to life.