For my contribution to this week’s Thursday’s Children, I thought I’d pay homage to that key ingredient in any writer’s store of writing essentials: imagination.
It may seem obvious – don’t all writers have to use their imagination I hear you ask? Well of course they do. But I’ve read so many books over the years where the author has lost their imaginative spark somewhere along the way, and the book comes across as bland and boring.
It’s like when we first start off writing – for most of us I guess it’s when we’re kids – imagination comes to us easily. In a previous post I’ve mentioned how when me and my siblings were still quite young I’d tell them stories. This helped to while away the hours spent travelling through France or down to Cornwall from our home in Hampshire. As a youngster, in some ways your imagination is in its prime – you can’t stop imagining things.
Maybe as a child you imagined your life different to how it was. I know I did. It’s not necessarily because you were unhappy, just that it was fun, it was a form of escapism to imagine a whole other world with different people and priorities. For me I really began writing properly when I was at primary school (4 to 11 year olds approx). I would write stories and poetry – I haven’t really written much poetry since then, it’s just never happened. Anyway before I started having to study for exams in my teens (which distracted me from creative writing for years to come), I was able to write what I wanted and I wrote lots of stories, most unfinished and in various genres.
Some of what I wrote was fantasy, some set in the contemporary, real world. I was able to experiment and feed my imagination. As I just mentioned, once I was aged around 14 I was made to focus on factual work and essays for exams. And would you believe it, it’s only since I graduated nearly 10 years ago, and finished studying, that I’ve really been able to focus properly on my creative writing. Which is what I prefer anyway.
I really believe that to improve as a writer you need to practice and learn to use your imagination. I find myself imagining doing rather crazy things that I would never actually do in reality. Things like suddenly swearing at the top of your voice in the cinema when the film playing is at a crucial point. Or saying something really inappropriate to the wrong person. I must remind you that I wouldn’t do anything like that in actuality!! But what I’m trying to get at is that as writers we need to engage with our imagination, we need to use our brains.
Like any part of the human body, our brains need exercising if they’re to stay in shape. So if we don’t use them often enough, they become a bit flat (metaphorically speaking) and it’s possible to lose our edge. I think it’s always good when, for example, we’re working on our WIP and we’re a bit bogged down with it, to take a break from it and think imaginatively about other stories we could write, things that will become our next WIP. That way once we’ve had a bit of time away from our main story, we’ll return to it refreshed.
Another thing that for me when I’m writing is key, is to plan my story well from the start. Maybe that’s not the way you work, but it’s certainly a good idea to make notes as you’re writing. Use your imagination, consider different options for how the narrative could unfold. And don’t be afraid to scrap ideas if you feel they’re not working.
Keep imagining, keep thinking and keep writing. You’ll get to wherever your imagination takes you.
If you’ d like to take part in Thursday’s Children, simply blog about whatever inspires your writing. Then add your name to this linky. Thanks goes to Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez for hosting.