What exactly is imagination? Perhaps there is no strict definition. But here is a true story to help us understand its value to creative writers:
A good friend of mine once described how he’d been writing about a storm, but had struggled to think of an adequate description for the thunder.
All of the usual descriptions seemed a bit boring and stale. A sudden clap of thunder or an angry roll of thunder just didn’t excite him. He needed something fresh and original – something highly imaginative. But it just couldn’t come to him. It seemed like all the good descriptions had already been used many times before.
Couple of weeks later, he was waiting at a bus stop when there was a sudden clap of thunder! It was one of those loud, unexpected crashes followed by an echoing rumble that gradually fades into silence. It reminded him of the time he’d failed to come up with a highly imaginative description of it, and it plagued him that he still couldn’t think of one now. As he was contemplating this, a little girl no older than four or five turned to her mother and said: Mummy, God just dropped his piano!
Wow! thought the writer. What an original, creative and beautiful way of describing thunder. But how is it that a young child, in seconds, was able to come up with such a vivid and original description of something an experienced writer had strained over for weeks?
Perhaps imagination could be described as the ability to see the world through the eyes of a child.
A common myth about imagination is that young children are more imaginative than older children or adults. Well that is nonsense. Sure, many young children are highly imaginative, but do we really lose our imaginations as we mature? Of course not. The problem is that the older we get, the more our thinking patterns begin to follow set rules and routines, and the more easily our imagination is blocked. And as we get older we become more conscious of ridicule. For example, if you don’t believe in God, or even if you believe in him but find it difficult to believe that he would be moving his own piano rather than getting somebody else to do it for him, then you would probably never think of such a description as readily as a young child.
In order to truly ‘free the mind’ and exercise our imaginations, we need to think with the clarity and inquisitiveness of a young child. This does not mean thinking in a childish way. It simply means we need to achieve an open-mindedness that comes only when our thoughts are free of inhibitions, fears and set thinking patterns. The exercises that you completed in Part One are a good example of this style of free thinking.
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