Most of my favorite authors are either old or dead. John Sandford, James Patterson, Stephen King, Nevada Barr, Jonathan Kellerman, and Randy Wayne White are old. John D. MacDonald, Robert Parker, and Elmore Leonard are dead. Where are the storytellers of tomorrow?
They’re not in an elite MFA writing program and they’re not enrolled in James Patterson’s writing course. You’ll find them in elementary schools across the country. The question is how many of tomorrow’s storytellers will survive the sometimes joyless public education experience with their imaginations and creativity intact.
The answer depends largely on the local school budget. If we continue to eliminate or de-emphasize art, music, band, and physical education in local curriculums, our society will pay a price. There will be few, if any, James Pattersons and Stephen Kings in our future. That’s nothing short of a tragedy, because great fiction can stir the mind and the spirit in a way that solving for X can never do.
Why do I think that art, music, band, and physical education are key ingredients in the development of future generations of storytellers? Think about it…a child that draws a picture is telling a story. They’re using their imagination and creativity. As a writer, I’m more interested in the story that child is telling me with crayons or paints, than I am the quality of the art work.
What about music? Certainly songs tell a story with their lyrics and their melodies. More importantly, the music can stimulate creativity in young minds. I write novels and short stories, but if I could choose one additional talent it would be the ability to write song lyrics. I love the idea of telling a story set to music.
School bands, choirs, and glee clubs are basically music taken to the next level. Children that love music should have the opportunity to practice their storytelling through their instrument of choice. If you don’t hear a story while listening to a soaring vocalist, a perfect string section, a shrieking electric guitar, or a thundering back beat, you’re dead inside.
So, what does any of this have to do with physical education? Physical activity makes us stronger and healthier. It clears our minds, relieves our stress, and frees our imaginations. Endorphins are amazing things, and they’re only obtainable through exercise. It’s a habit children need to develop if they hope to maximize their creative potential in whatever field they choose to pursue.
There’s a lot of good writing out there now, but I wonder what the world of fiction will look like in twenty years. We’ll see.