Chris Padilla/Blog / Books

Terry Pratchett and Real Life Inspirations

It never really occurred to me growing up that I could work in software.

I grew up playing video games and when I finished them, credits would roll. A flood of names would dash across the screen.

My parents explained to me after watching a movie that it took all these people to make a film. And there was a realness to that.

But, with video games - growing up with Nintendo, all the names were Japanese. And developers - unlike firefighters, police officers, and construction workers - don't have as clear an answer to Richard Scarry's question "What do people do all day?". As far as I know - "Well wow, you have to be Japanese to make games!!"

It wasn't until I met living, breathing people that were making a career of working on the web that it clicked. And that's even after I had done it as a hobby since I was a kid!

Pratchett and Inspiration

I mentioned I'm reading Terry Pratchett's autobiography. I even wrote a bit about how he gains great satisfaction from the cycle of being a reader and writing for readers.

To continue the conversation - sharing things online helps a great deal. Here's further validation. This time, from the angle of the importance of having heroes that feel real.

Pratchett talks about writing fan mail to Tolkien in his autobiography, but I like this heartfelt clip from From A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Non-Fiction :

[W]hen I was young I wrote a letter to J.R.R. Tolkien, just as he was becoming extravagantly famous. I think the book that impressed me was Smith of Wootton Major. Mine must have been among hundreds or thousands of letters he received every week. I got a reply. It might have been dictated. For all I know, it might have been typed to a format. But it was signed. He must have had a sackful of letters from every commune and university in the world, written by people whose children are now grown-up and trying to make a normal life while being named Galadriel or Moonchild. It wasn’t as if I’d said a lot. There were no numbered questions. I just said that I’d enjoyed the book very much. And he said thank you. For a moment, it achieved the most basic and treasured of human communications: you are real, and therefore so am I.

Just like my last post, I can't help but think about the internet. How ridiculously lucky are we to have much closer access to artists, writers, developers — all world class?

Close To Home

It's the humanizing element that can solidify the inspiration, though. It's one thing to hear stories of born prodigies, and another to hear stories of people that started from a place closer to home.

Granny Pratchett told young Terry growing up about G. K. Chesterton. She loaned him Chesterton's books, which he ate up and quickly became a fan. Most importantly, though, she told Terry that Chesterton was a former resident of their town Beaconsfield.

[W]hat seemed to have grabbed Terry most firmly in these revelations was the way they located this famous writer on entirely familiar ground – in Beaconsfield, at the same train station where Terry had but recently laid cons on the tracks for passing trains to crush... It brought with it the realization that, for all that one might very easily form grander ideas about them, authors were flesh and blood and moved among us... And if that were the case, then perhaps it wasn't so outlandish, in the long run, to believe that one might oneself even become an author.

I think we all have stories like this. Some of us may even be luckier - our teachers were this living, breathing validation that what you dream of doing can be done by you.

A similar sentiment from my last post: It's wildly important for you to share your work online. Maybe, even, it's just as important that you do the work you're called to do period. Even if you're not on as global a scale as a published author. For many of us, it's the section-mates in band, the english teachers, the supervisor at work, or even the friends we know from growing up that help solidify dreams into genuine possibilities.

Not to mention the impact you could have, just by sending an email.