The Truth of Make-Believe

I just finished reading J.M. Barrie’s “awfully big adventure” known as Peter Pan.  Or rather, I should say I just finished re-reading it.  Truth be known, it was not one of the many stories I heard while I was growing up.  My mom raised us on a steady diet of words and we traveled our way through many of the classic (and some of the not so classic) stories: Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, Little House on the Prairie and countless other fascinating tales.  Somehow, though, Peter Pan did not make it into the repertoire.  Perhaps we, as foolish children, rejected the suggestion.  Perhaps my mom feared we would fly off to the Neverland ourselves, once we’d had a taste of it in the story.  Whatever the reason, the first time I flew with Peter and Tinker Bell was four years ago, when I got it into my mind to write a story about Tinker Bell’s history (it’s still a work in occasional progress).  I was entranced and enchanted.  Thinking to resume my foray into the land of fairies soon, I decided to revisit the land of the Neverland.  So, I took another trip there, quietly, unobtrusively.  For I am, after all, all grown up, and should not be allowed to enter the Neverland if Peter knew I was there.


One of my favorite lines in the book is when Barrie says, of Peter, “to him make-believe and true were exactly the same thing.”  This is a fact that resonates with me, as it must, to some level, with all writers.   For in the land of words, when we take up the pen (or pencil, or keyboard) and dare to tell our stories, whatever we make-believe becomes truth.  It may not be the only truth.  It may not even be the real truth.  But within the pages of our stories, and within the folds of our own minds, it is the only truth.   We are the weavers, the sewers, the planters, the potters…choose whatever analogy you like best, because we can be any of them, all of them, or none of them at any given moment.  Our challenge, then, our goal and desire is to make the truth that we know is real, true to all who come to the words with the idea that it is only make-believe.   How well do we weave, sew, plant and mold?  Can we make the Lost Boys believe that the empty air is, in fact, an actual meal?  When my readers have consumed my words, when they have crossed the expanse of my imagination and return to the edge of reality, I do not want them to be the same.  If they, after reading, are not changed in some small way, if they cannot understand a new kind of truth, of reality, in the world of my make-believe, then I have failed in my challenge.   This is the difference between Peter Pan and the Lost Boys: the ability to discern what is make-believe, and what is true.  I want you to enter my world of words as a Lost Boy, and leave as Peter Pan.


-S.D. Bullard


~ by sdbullard on March 30, 2012.

One Response to “The Truth of Make-Believe”

  1. Well said. As any artist would whole heartedly agree.

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