The journey into imagination always begins with a few steps in the real world. In fact, to make the trip worthwhile, it’s essential to be working from the concerns, opportunities and facts that are found in day-to-day life. It may seem as if imagination works spontaneously and emerges unbeckoned from our dreams. But, unless you’re lucky, that sort of imaginative journey doesn’t really go anywhere. The screenwriting guru, Robert McKee, offers a point of advice to writers when they run dry: Go to the library, and load up on facts.
While you may begin your journey alone, it’s a good idea to invite others along before you go too far. Once you’ve got a few notes down and are able to articulate the ideas that are intriguing you, sharing these with others to provide a means of clarifying and enriching the experience. Now, as with any other journey, whom you bring along can make a big difference in how valuable the trip is. If you bring along someone who agrees with you on everything and has much the same background, the chances are that they will not add to the experience. In fact, such people are more likely to jump ahead of you and tell you that you’re going in the wrong direction, or you’ve made a bad turn, or you should skip that side trip because it’s not that interesting. Worse, they or you might get bored.
The best people to bring along are people who are very different, but people who you have respect for. If your companion into the imagination regularly provokes the question, “Are you crazy?” and still is someone whose perspectives you take seriously, surprising adventures are in your future.
Just because you have a companion who won’t immediately respond to your off-the-wall comments with disdain, doesn’t mean that you will successfully explore new venues on your journey of imagination. There’s another person on the journey–you. Often we are our harshest critics. We’re the ones who put up the barriers to turn away from ideas and insights that just might be amazing. Your imagination has the best chance if you give yourself permission to make stupid choices, and if you have the courage to go where impulses tell you to go.
As with any trip, journeying to the imagination requires preparation. The more skills you have in developing ideas, analyzing ideas, communicating and listening, the more likely you are to get the most out of the trip. These are capabilities that can be developed even when you’re not on a journey of imagination, and all the time you put in sharpening the skills will be more than paid back later.
Finally, it’s worth saying that this journey should be fun. Imagination and play are closely linked. This is not to say that there isn’t work involved. There can be paths on the journey that are full of briars and hostile animals. But if there aren’t moments of delight, maybe you should check to see if took a wrong turn.
But this piece is titled, beyond imagination! What happens after the trip is completed? The answer is if things went well, you’ll have what you need to create a new reality. And that new reality really will be beyond imagination.