Writer Wednesday: Awakening Imagination

KwikKrimesI was going to say the best way to open your portal to the imagination would be to sit at your computer and shout, “Release the Kraken!”

It could work!

But the truth is for a lot of us,having  finally carved out time to be creative, find it difficult to open up that magic door to the creative realm. We focus on what we want to accomplish and begin to feel frustrated because we aren’t immediately cracking along, fingers flying and words flowing, as always happens in those writing montages in films.

Lynda Barry, Funk Queen of the Universe and inspirer of countless folks, has a number of techniques in her book What It Is, which I’m using in my ‘Imaginative Writing’ course. A lot of what she does is getting folks to think about the simple yet profound question that changed her life, “What is an image?”

When as children we play, it’s something that comes naturally. As we grow and get told to put away childish things, it becomes more difficult to access that part of our brains that brought toys to life. You can call that ability grown-up names like “the flow” if it helps, but the important thing is having a map to get back there. There are lots of exercises to get you there. Like most activities associated with writing, it’s all about building a habit — in this case, a habit of not doing something — not shutting off the natural playfulness inside you.

Here are a couple of simple exercises. Today in class I set four objects up at the front of the class. It didn’t really matter what they were (but if you’re curious: Alice Loweecey‘s nun doll, my devil maraca, a kalimba and my pirate skull candle holder — just things grabbed from my office). I asked the students to write about:

  • What is this?
  • Where did it come from?
  • Who did it belong to?
  • What did it mean to them?

With just that information, they were already building a story. We talked about the backgrounds they created and they had some wonderful stories already rolling. The I asked them to take a look at a wonderful site.

The Monster Engine is an amazing project where artists create paintings based on children’s drawings. I asked the to choose one pair and tell me the story of this ‘monster’ or creature. What did they do? Where did they live? What was their name?

In no time, they were creating lives, homes, friends — even worlds! It’s easy to do once you trust in the playful mind. A habit — open yourself to play. Make it a habit to look around you and wonder, ‘What’s the story here?’ about everything and everyone you see. It’s a way of seeing the world.

More Writer Wednesday posts here.

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