Capturing Wonder in your Writing

Disney - Dumbo the Flying Elephant (Explored)

Photo Credit: Joe Penniston via Compfight

At the start of this month, my family and I took a trip down to Florida to visit my side of the family. We planned to visit Walt Disney World with my two-year old son and introduce him to one of the most magical places on earth. I was excited to bring him there since I had thoroughly enjoyed the Disney parks all throughout my childhood. He was in awe of the giant castle, the characters, parades, and of course, the rides. I made it a priority to take my son on a ride that I was confident he would enjoy: Dumbo. Sure enough, as soon as he saw the flying elephants soaring, he wanted to take part in that ride. We boarded the elephant together and when we took off on our flight, I could see in his young eyes something that often gets lost in our adult years: wonder. Throughout our day at Disney, I saw the wonder in my son’s eyes many times and it touched my heart to see him be caught up in the spectacle of Walt Disney’s imagination all around him.

A sense of wonder is a powerful thing in storytelling, it moves us as readers and captivates our imagination like nothing else. Remember when you read books as a child and became enthralled with the stories and characters? Perhaps you stayed up late to finish those books or role-played with siblings and friends because you couldn’t get enough of that imaginary world presented to you on so many pages. It’s an exciting feeling to be caught up in wonder. As adults, we lose that feeling. We become cynical or hardened to the realities around us and don’t make time for the silly stuff of our youth. Maybe that’s why the stories we write come out flat and lifeless, lacking the wonder we remember from long ago.

The good news is that the wonder can be recaptured. We need only dig deep to find the child inside and remember the stories that made us feel alive. Perhaps for some of you this seems too vague to understand, so I’ll make it a little more practical.

Think about the last time something really inspired awe within you. A beautiful sunset. A song that moved you to tears. Or maybe a work of art that really made an impression on you. Good art tends to spark wonder in our souls. I say “good” because there is some art out there that doesn’t really captivate us or move us in any way (this can be subjective, of course, but most often it’s not and many can tell the different between good art and bad art). Nonetheless, if you feel like your writing is lacking wonder or life, take time today to find art that incites wonder. Here are some things you can do:

  • Go to an art gallery and examine each piece displayed
  • Read a book of poetry, preferably from a classic poet (I recommend Robert Frost or Wordsworth)
  • Listen to classical music
  • Take a long hike on a nature trail
  • Sit on the grass at night and look up at the stars

I believe taking time to do one or all of these things can spark some creativity and wonder within you, which tends to carry forward into you writing. What I would not recommend is that you simply watch a movie or play a video game to stir up some wonder because those are passive activities that do not really engage your mind.

It’s difficult for us adults to experience the same level of wonder as children do, but it’s not impossible. I encourage you to seek out the wonder you knew as a child this week and see how doing so affects your writing.