In between playwriting and screenwriting, I spent twelve years in ministry. In that liminal space and time I accompanied people through every kind of life crisis and up to the threshold of every kind of transition from birth to death. There is something about—— blessing a stillborn, bracing up a courageous grandfather into the viewing room to say goodbye to his two year old grandson, talking a despairing teenager down from the roof, plotting an octogenarian's escape from the nursing home, and having someone whisper in my ear before surgery that they plan to outsmart their doctor who intends to keep her body alive in whatever condition, and having baptized, married and buried a hundred people—— that gave me experience and insight into nature and the human condition that I couldn't have gotten had I merely sat at my desk looking out the window dreaming up characters and their challenges.
You might think any writer would emerge from all that a full blown realist. But my experience confirmed the cliche that reality is stranger than fiction. No one in the room had to be any sort of religious or mystic to see the iridescent ball of light in the corner the moment their aunt exhaled her last breath or to smell their grandfather's tobacco fill the room moments before he died. The gathering of geeks supporting their friends burying their newborn saw the black butterfly land, out of season, on his tombstone—as if hired to accentuate the metaphor I'd used in his eulogy. Old New England salts hobbled out into the darkness and saw the shooting star play the same role for their old friend. None of these out-of-the-ordinaries needed to mean anything fancy. In fact, trying to give them meaning after the fact demeaned grief and diminished awe.
And so I re-emerge into full time professional writing, having acquired a crunchy-reality sensibility and deeper respect for nature, knowing that the key to keeping my storytelling real is magic.