If you’re a writer or an artist, then one of the most valuable creative tools that you own is your imagination. As such, it helps if you know as much about your own imagination as possible -so that you can use it in the best possible way.
In a recent article, I briefly referred to my imagination as a “contradictory place”. At the time, this just seemed like an interesting turn of phrase but, the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of thinking about the imagination as being a “place” rather than just another part of the mind.
Yes, obviously, your imagination isn’t actually a physical place (apart from a collection of neurones inside your brain). But, at the same time, we usually experience our own imaginations in a very visual and explorative way – so, although your imagination may not actually be a physical place, it probably feels like one. As such, I thought I’d provide a few tips about how to explore your own imagination and learn more about what’s in there.
Before I go any further, I should probably point out that I’m not going to include hallucinogens in this list. Although some people use them for spiritual purposes and/or self-exploration and I have no moral objections to people using hallucinogens (as long as they’re aware of any relevant safety issues), I don’t really have the experience to talk about this subject authoritatively.
Not only that, the things in this list will allow you to explore your imagination in a much safer, more understandable and more controlled way than you would probably be able to do if you used hallucinogens.
So, let’s get started:
1) Daydreams: If you’re a creative person, then you probably daydream a lot. In fact, creating art and writing stories is basically just a way of translating your daydreams into something that other people can understand and enjoy.
But, the kind of daydreaming which we do when we’re creating things is often a very focused type of daydreaming, since we’re mostly daydreaming about the picture we’re drawing or the story that we’re telling.
If you want to learn more about your own imagination, and possibly find some new creative ideas too, then pay attention to your unfocused daydreams too. Pay attention to the daydreams you have just before you fall asleep, the daydreams you have when you’re doing boring things etc… Pay attention to all of it.
Why? Because every daydream is a story in it’s own right. Even if you’re just having an idle daydream about lounging on a idyllic tropical beach somewhere, then this is still a story of sorts – after all, why are you on the beach? Why does the beach look exactly the way it does? What will you do when you leave the beach? I’m sure you get the idea..
If you understand the kinds of stories you like to daydream about, then you can understand the kinds of stories that you’re best suited to telling. You can understand the kinds of stories that really mean something to you. You can understand which kinds of images really resonate with you.
2) Actual Dreams: I’m absolutely terrible when it comes to keeping a dream diary, but one of the most obvious ways of learning more about your own imagination is to look at the dreams you have every night. Not only that, you are completely immersed in your own imagination when you’re dreaming too.
But, unless you’ve been practising lucid dreaming or unless your dream spontaneously becomes lucid (this has only happened to me about three times), then you obviously can’t control what exactly you dream about. Even so, your dreams can provide you with lots of interesting images, scenes and stories that you can use in whatever you create.
And, best of all, these images, scenes and stories have all come from your own imagination – even if they have been hidden from your conscious mind. So, remembering your dreams (or keeping a record of them) allows you to use more of your imagination than you’re normally able to access when you’re awake.
3) Preferences: What is your favourite film? What is your favourite song? What are your favourite types of art?
What are your favourite computer games? What is your favourite novel? What is your favourite comic?
You might wonder why I’m asking all of these questions, but one of the best ways to learn more about your own imagination is to see which parts of other people’s imaginations really fascinate you.
If you feel drawn to a particular type of story, a particular musical style or a particular genre of art – then there’s probably a good chance that it is similar to part of your own imagination in some way or another.
Oh, and if anyone was wondering about my answers to the questions I mentioned earlier – my favourite film is “Blade Runner”, my favourite song is “Ever Dream” by Nightwish, my favourite art styles are art nouveau,Ukiyo-e prints and impressionism.
My favourite computer games are “The Longest Journey”, “Doom II” and American Mc Gee’s Alice”. My favourite novel is “Lost Souls” By Poppy Z. Brite and my favourite comic is probably “Death: The Time Of Your Life” by Neil Gaiman.
4) READ BOOKS: I’ve already written about this, but I can’t emphasise how important it is to read a lot of fiction.
This is because, unlike comics or films, written stories force you to bring the story to life using your own imagination. When you read a novel, you have to imagine what all of the characters look like and what all of the settings look like.
Of course, the really interesting thing about this is that you will probably imagine what everything in the story looks like in a slightly different way to how everyone else will. This is why, if you ever watch a film adaptation of a novel you’ve read, the characters and settings will probably look slightly different to how you expect them to. They will look different to how your own imagination interpreted them.
So, pay attention to this when you’re reading a story. Paying attention to exactly how you imagine everything and everyone in a novel that you’re reading will help you to see how your own imagination works (or, more precisely, the unique way that it interprets things).
5) Try creating different things: Not only is working in a different genre to the one you usually do a good way to learn more about your own art (or writing) style, but it’s also a great way to see how your imagination handles new and different things too.
Writing, drawing or painting something you’ve never tried before forces your imagination to work a lot harder than usual and it forces you to imagine things that you probably haven’t really imagined that often. And, as such, the results may end up surprising you (and teaching you more about your own imagination too).
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂