Fairies and fairy dust, elves and goblins, worlds with twelve suns, utopias, timeless oceans, and magic. What do these all have in common? — pictures formed in the mind, imagery, imagination. A place that exists only between your two ears.
Have you ever thought about the role imagination plays in your life? For example, you have to imagine a goal before you can take steps to achieve it, imagine a story before you can write it. When you read, you enter into the realm of imagination, creating characters, places, and scenes. You even have to imagine the past (isn’t memory partially a function of imagination?) before you can talk about it. Imagination is closely related to creativity — we have to imagine something in order to create it — but it is not the same thing; we can imagine without creating, but we cannot create without imagining.
Some people talk about the power of imagination. That the ability to form images of scenes, objects, and people, when consciously cultivated, enables us to accomplish more in real life. That it is the primary power behind creativity, manifesting desires, and creating a better life. It may also be the primary power behind poor relationships (we imagine, incorrectly, what the other person is feeling and thinking), lack of creativity (we imagine we have none), and a poorer life (we imagine failure, therefore try nothing).
There are two ways of imagining: we imagine something and believe that it is true, or could become true (I imagine and believe he loves me); we imagine something and know that it is make-believe (I imagine the existence of unicorns and space aliens). When we imagine, whether believed or make-believe, we also trigger emotions. In my example of imagining being loved, a warm and cozy feeling spreads through my body. When I imagine unicorns, a girlish hope lights up in my chest; even though I know they’re mythical beasts, the idea of them releases a whimsical sense of play.
This week’s journaling prompts will help you identify the ways in which you use your imagination in every day life, and — perhaps — help you to use it more consciously and to better advantage.
- When you think about using your imagination, what immediately comes to mind? Freewrite for ten minutes about that thought or image.
- Think about your day (if you need to, close your eyes). Beginning in the morning and working your way to the present moment, write a list of each task or activity you did. Next to each item, write down the ways you engaged your imagination (include this activity of re-imagining your day) and how your imagination helped or hindered you.
- What kind of imaginary play did you engage in when you were a child? Write about your favorite imagination game, going into as much detail as you can remember. How does it feel to remember and write about it?
- What kinds of fiction and nonfiction writing most appeal to your imagination? How does the attraction to certain kinds of writing mirror your imaginary play as a child?
- Take a field trip to a playground, daycare center, or other place where children gather, and observe them at play. Describe their interactions and how they create imaginary worlds for themselves. What has this got to do with you?
- Imagine yourself one day, five years in the future. Where will you be? What will you be doing? Who will you be with? Anything goes.
- Think about something you successfully accomplished recently. In what ways did your imagination help you succeed? How might you apply the power of your imagination to an upcoming project or task?
Do you have another prompt about imagination? I invite you to leave a comment and share it with others.