The thought designers
Do you remember the first time you hallucinated? The first time words on a page painted pictures in your mind? The first time someone’s ability to control your thoughts forced you to experience a phenomenon called imagination?
The first hallucination
I do. I was nine when it happened. I was reading Seal Morning by Rowena Farre, which is a beautiful book that documents Rowena’s experience of growing up in an isolated part of Scotland, away from her home in India. She writes about her incredible bond with a seal pup and other wildlife on a remote Scottish croft, which is equal parts magical and lonely.
As a (then undiagnosed) Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) who adored animals, this sort of book appealed to every part of me – although I didn't recognise why at the time. And so, I imagined myself as the protagonist. I remember seeing the ocean in my mind, stroking the seal that looked identical to the specimens I’d seen at the zoo, and laughing at the mischievous squirrels who acted as the book’s comic relief.
However, as memories shape our imaginations — and I hadn’t seen or learned enough to go deeper than that — the pictures in my mind were half-formed.
Even so, I was left with the profound sense of satisfaction that comes with escaping from reality for a while.
‘Wow,’ I thought. ‘So, this is what real-life magic feels like? Awesome.’
From then on, I can’t remember a time I didn’t have my nose in a book – where the ink-stained pages of someone’s word-purge didn’t invite me to step inside and live in their brain for while.
I was a proficient reader from the age of six. My Mum installed the importance of a good vocabulary in my brother and me at an early age, and some of my best memories of her include evenings spent snort-laughing while reading books such as Not Yeti and Witch VIP.
Those early memories stayed with me. Little did I know that it was the beginning of a beautiful, uncomplicated – albeit obsessive – relationship that would eventually define who I was as a person. Whatever that feeling was – that first moment of wonderment and perfect clarity, I wanted more of it. Craved it. And, as luck would have it, there was no shortage of books offering me the sweet release from reality I sought.
I sniff pages
Reading was – and still is – my drug of choice. For better or worse, books have been my constant companions. They’ve soothed me to sleep, caught my tears, forced me to smile, made me laugh, and taught me that, no matter where I am in the world, I’m still connected to something – to someone.
Because I know, firsthand, that a little piece of an author’s soul goes into their work. That, no matter how commercial, how successful, how indie, how talented they are, writing is a profoundly personal endeavour. I mean, it’s literally someone's inner thoughts marked on a page. You can’t get more personal than that* (*spiritually speaking). And, granted, most commercial works are edited and refined to the figurative edge of a samurai sword. Yet, the books that hold our attention are the books that gift us with that intangible quality – the little je ne sais quoi that keeps us turning their pages long into the night.
Why I write
I think it’s why I’ve always been a writer. Alphabeti spaghetti runs through my veins. Scrabble is my muse. The dictionary is my love language. I wouldn’t even say I was particularly talented. Yet, talent is an arbitrary phrase that exists within trite subjective parameters. I don’t write because I want to be the best at it. I write because it reflects the best of me. It’s all I really have to offer the world.
One in a million, literally
I'd love to say my neurodiversity sets me apart. I thought being a HSP, a Complex-PTSD survivor, a cat-owning writer, and a female entrepreneur made me oh-so-unique. But it doesn’t. I’m literally one in a million, which my Instagram feed reminds me of daily. It's weirdly comforting – if you wrap solace in a bitter pill and swallow it without water.
That said, what I lack in originality, I make up for in the raw, authentic reality of that single truth. (How liberating!) I’m not going to try to impress anyone or be someone I’m not. Love me, love my boring life. I worked hard to forge this monotonous existence. When your thoughts run at a hundred miles an hour and your internal monologue only shuts up when you shove a book in its hand or a laptop under its fingers, carving out time for peace is as important as breathing.
Reading and writing are mutually exclusive. I let someone else curate my thoughts when I read, and I hone my own when I write. It's a symbiosis born out of a need to survive. Because, the rest of the time, my synapses are a straight-up hot mess. The world is big and overwhelming and noisy. Shutting it out for a while is not only restorative, it's vital for people like me.
It's also why I sell books and teach others the sacred art of English grammar (nerd alert!) I monetise my mind-control powers in the form of fantasy books; I offer tips to fellow authors through my blog and newsletter, and I aim to inspire and impart any insight I glean to my wonderful writing community, friends, and anyone brave enough to ask me a question about syntax.
This obsession is what led me to a dream – a dream about a platform that connects readers and writers in a mutually beneficial way. Readers only pay for the pages they read and writers have the freedom to submit and write whatever they want. Of course, this would only work digitally, but I believe there's a gap in the market due to the oversaturation and easy manipulation of platforms like Amazon, which disillusions readers and writers alike. There's an audience for everyone (truly – sometimes it scares me). But social trends and popularity contests are stunting creativity. A system of meritocracy would solve a lot of these problems and ensure that readers read what they enjoy and writers write what actually fuels them.
Never trust horologists
Ultimately, books are about freedom – whether you're reading them or writing them. And in my perfect world, where unicorns come for tea and owls fly new releases to your door, books would be accessible in every sense of the word. Different language? Here's a universal translator. Terrible digital skills? Here's a one-size-fits-all template. A word you don't know? Bam! Clickable on-word dictionary.
Whatever the issue, we at [insert clever company name] would solve it. Because in a world that speeds past like horologists are playing a devastating practical joke, letting someone else curate your thoughts for a while sounds rather lovely, doesn't it?
Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.
About the Creator
As a freelance content writer, fantasy author, and reluctant minion of darkness, I spend my days devouring words and teaching my cats boundaries (which is relentless, unforgiving work...)
Escapism is life. Find me on Insta: @j.l.nicholls 😊