What? No Imagination, You Say!

The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.

—-Jean Jacques Rousseau

“What an imagination you have!”

Most writers have likely heard that a time or two, I know I have. Many non-writers seem to be in awe of what thoughts run though a writer’s mind. Some people seemed to be under the impression that a writer’s imagination is somehow different than the average person’s, that we posses the ability to think up the strange and unusual in a way they could only dream of.

I’m not so sure I agree.

Granted, as writers, we allow our imagination to unfold upon the page. It is not a private thing. Once it is written it is there for anyone and everyone to see. It is not the same thing as a thought. A thought is private, one we can choose to verbalize or keep to ourselves. What sets a writer apart from the rest of society? We write out our thoughts, create them into whole new world. We mould and meld them to suit ourselves. We write it down.

But imagination is not the only thing that a writer needs. It takes patience and a willingness to work with words, the same words over and over, as we move about phrases and sentences to produce the proper flow. We sometimes rewrite the same sentence many times before we get it right. Sometimes we even know the story well, yet we struggle to capture it on paper the way we envision it in our minds.

But the rest of you use your imaginations as well. How many times have you gone over a conversation with someone in your mind, struggling to express yourself coherently? Or have planned a set of circumstances for an event that has not yet happened and perhaps never will? Please don’t try to convince me that you’ve never taken an event say— someone being late for dinner—and spun a whole story around the what ifs and could haves of the situation. Don’t be ashamed. We all do it to some extent, some of us more than other.  It could just mean that those of us who do it more often are the ones who exercise our imaginations more.

Words are not the only place where out imagination comes into play. Anytime we create something we hold a vision of it in our minds before we bring it into existence. I can’t imagine someone thinking that they do not have an imagination.

Some of us try and define imagination. We describe someone as having a good or bad imagination. We might label someone as having a wild or even vivid imagination. Sometimes, in exasperation, we might even claim that someone has no imagination whatsoever, but of course that is impossible. One thing I’m almost certain of, we do all have an imagination. If we have the ability to think I would challenge anyone who says they have never dreamed a what if in their life.

Just for the fun of it (because I’m such a fun person) if someone were to define your imagination in one word, what do you imagine that word would be?

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  1. Hmm, Laura…food for thought…

    I think there are people who are so unsure of themselves that they sometimes doubt their abilities to have interesting thoughts, and are terrified to express their opinions as a result. I feel sorry for them.

    I don’t think everyone is capable of doing what we do, though…that probably sounds a bit snotty, but it never ceases to amaze me how many “educated” people are unable to construct a simple sentence! I am grateful to have that ability (and indeed, talent!).

    My word to describe my imagination: FANCIFUL.


    • Although I’m sure many people are capable of creating scenerios in their minds they wouldn’t know where to begin if asked to write a story. Still their imaginations are very much alive!

      Fanciful—I like that word!

  2. “JessicaFletchery” I love to read mysteries and I’m always trying to come up with plots for my own stories. When I see something that interests me, I wonder how it could be involved in a murder. Hmmmm. Maybe “scary” would be better?

    • “JessicaFlechery” What a wonderful way of describing your imagination. It ceratinly draws a perfectly clear picture.

      So, you’re interested in creating murders on the page. That sounds very intriguing.

  3. I like to think I’ve retained my sense of wonder and imagination that I used to have as a child so I’d say my imagination was “childlike”.

    Of course, I wish I was more imaginative as I was in childhood when it came more naturally and every day was magical. Now I have to work at it much harder but that’s where the writing comes in. It allows me to tap into the child I once was and still am. It allows me to reconnect.

    It’s a shame people think only some of us are imaginative as if only a select few have the gift. I think the potential to be imaginative is in everyone if they give themselves permission to let go and explore it.

    • Childlike is a great way to look at the world. It really makes our imagination soar. Childhood was a time when we spent so many of our hours imagining. I’m not even sure we were aware of what we were doing back then. It came so natural. Now, it seems that, it is a bit forced. Being able to put it on paper gives us something tangiable to hold and look at.

      I agree with you that we all are imaginative, it is our natural way. Sometimes we just don’t recognize it for what it is.

      “Permission to let go” is an excellent way of putting it.

  4. All I know is that it often runs away with me.

    • Then I suppose “runaway” is a good way to describe it. Haven’t seen you around in awhile, Tricia. So nice for you to drop in. I look forward to posting regularly again!

  5. “Evolving” – Once you take that chance & put your work (book) out there for people to (gasp) read – you discover that you HAVE to do it again – but you also HAVE to make your new work fresh – so you HAVE to let your imagination go nuts (& fix the story during edits). And then you HAVE to do it all again & again & again – & then you die, become outrageously famous, the estate sell lots of books & your kids become wealthy snobs with homes on 4 continents. Oh, geez, let my imagination run loose again. Sorry!

    I’d much prefer being entertaining than entertained.

    • Gee Dave, that’s quite and “Evolving” imagination you have. I wouldn’t have seen that coming. Darn snobby kids making more money off our books than we do. (I like that word snobby. I don’t believe I ever wrote it out before. I guess, like your imagination, my writing is evolving.)

      No need to apologize for being as entertaining as you are. You have your imagination to thank for that!

  6. I think Einstein said best: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
    I understand your question, but I think that it’s silly to define imagination. Something that, by its own nature, is infinite, can know no bounds in the world of form (were thoughts are forms). One’s imagination is contained only as much as the one who contains it. That is, if I believe I have a limited imagination – I do. If I believe I have an unlimited imagination – I do. :-)

    With Love and Gratitude,

    The Intentional Sage

    • Thanks you for dropping in and for your comment.

      My question, of course, was meant to be fun. Far too often we seem to take life a bit too serious and by doing this we limit ourselves in totally different ways. Our imagination is boundless, absolutely. Nothing ever occurs without our imagining it on some level in the beginning. :)

  7. Keith C.

     /  July 15, 2010

    I often think that the difference between writers (or any artists really) and those who aren’t is that we see potential and meaning in thoughts and events that others dismiss as meaningless and fleeting.
    I don’t think writers have ‘more’ imagination that anybody else. I think we just realize that imagination has value, that it can be used to learn and to teach about the world around us.

    • Hi Keith. Thanks for dropping in and leaving a comment. I think you sort of hit the nail on the head. As writers we do view the world from a different lens. Far too often life events are dismissed by others while we pick up on them and run like crazy..

      I do think we all have imaginations, no more or less than anyone else. Some of us, however, give ourselves more freedom to use our imaginations.

  8. One word? Hmmm… maybe ‘inquisitive’. You know, ‘the inquiring mind’ thing? Sometimes my imagination takes the ‘what if’ question to ridiculous lengths and I have to rein it in. After all, there’s credibility to consider, too. ;)

    Interesting post, Laura. Thanks for giving my morning brain some stimulation.

    • Oh you’re most welcome. Cranial stimulation is something we all need from time to time. Yes, credibility does play a part in what we write. Doesn’t it?

  9. Carol stole my word. :-)

    I like what Kevin said about writers seeing the potential others might not see. And you’re right, Laura, it takes a lot of work to turn that potential into a written work.

  10. Wow, you have begun such an interesting discussion. I would like to say that the imagination is a space we can all access, a space outside of our worldly realm. You might call it a space between here and there, a meditative space that allows us to access the profound, the unexpected, the magical, the spiritual … and other worlds, too.

    Patience and a willingness to see is what it takes to get there, and, sadly, I do think many of us lose this as we become older, though I do believe all children have very close relationships with their imaginations. As an adult, I find that I am continuously exploring ways to become closer to my own imagination and to essentially let go.

    Perhaps my word is magical. I like universal too though. Tough one. Perhaps one word isn’t enough for me :).

    • It has been said that within that “space” all creativity takes place.

      Magical is a such a fun word, filled with so many possibilities. I think as adults it is more difficult for us to let go and allow our imaginations to take the lead.

  11. Storyteller. When I was 2 years old my parents said I would stand on the hearth, rock from foot to foot and tell tall tales. Twenty-eight years later when I told my mum I was going to write a book, she nodded and said, “That doesn’t surprise me.”

    Great post, Laura. Thanks.

    • I can see you in my minds’s eye, Joylene. What a lovely story. So nice to have the support of our parents. I’m inclined to think that no matter how old we are we need and want the support of our Mom and Dad.

  12. Imagination… in one word for me would be ‘reality’.. quite a contradiction, right? But strangely, I find it difficult to differentiate between real and imagination. .. because whatever I imagine has a ‘real’ connection somewhere.. always inspired by a real event or story or something I read. I can not conjure up things. It is quite a handicap for a writer. I have to live with it.

  13. As for the mundane things in life, yes, one does imagine how one wants his future to be.. one does imagine “what if” and ‘i wish’ but they are partly dreams partly logic, partly expectations.. the obvious ‘fulfilling’ situations one wants to be in. The imagination I’m talking about is.. something like.. if you asked me to write a conversation between a policeman and an astronaut, I might do a very bad job.

    • Thanks for dropping in and joining in the conversation. As a writer try to keep in mind that how we write may change over time. Today you may feel as though you can not “conjure” up things but over time, we all grow as writers and as we continue to work at our craft this may change. The writers we are today will not be the same writers we are tomorrow.


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