In early February I wrote a post entitled Short Story Challenge. I vowed to write at least one short story per month of at least 2,500 words. Prior to that I took a stab at writing a novel and realized about a half-hour into the process that I had no idea what I was doing. Instead, I’d start with short stories to develop some writing ability, practice at fantasy fiction, and see where the effort took me.
About two days after writing that post, I sat down at my computer and prepared to write my first short…and panicked. My heart raced and I realized that I had no clue what to write about. Where did I expect these stories to come from? Would they magically transfer from my mind to the screen? I wanted to write in the fantasy fiction genre, and magic plays a large part in that type of story, but expecting magic to help me in this situation was slightly unrealistic.
Then, to my surprise, magic did happen. I cleared my mind, relaxed, and gave my brain the time it needed. My mind wandered, allowing me to access a part of my brain that I had not used in what seemed like ages: my imagination. The faint outline of a story appeared. I wrote the first sentence, then the second. The story flowed and took on a life of its own. It was a wonderful experience, and over the ensuing week it was completed.
After I wrote that first story and began thinking about the second, panic again tried to grab me with its sharp claws. But, as with story number one, I would take a breath, relax, and let my mind go. I allowed myself the time and space to tap into my creativity. The stories are there, locked in a closet, a part of you. Giving yourself the time and letting yourself go will help unlock them and bring them to the surface.
Between the second and third stories, I could not stop my imagination from firing, even at the oddest times, such as while eating, exercising, or at 3am. I am to the point now where I need to keep a notepad to keep track of story ideas.
What I realized from this experience is that an imagination is like a muscle. Mine had been dormant for so long that it atrophied, but it was always there, it’s potential unrealized. Up to that point I had convinced myself that I had no imagination. I was wrong. It was there, napping, a latent power waiting to break out of its cocoon. The more it is exercised, the more powerful it is becoming.
In addition to just relaxing and trying to tap into that power, here are some other ways to spark your imagination:
- Get away from people. Take a walk or lock yourself in a room. Allow your mind to wander.
- Exercise. A few great ideas popped into my noggin’ while I was lifting weights.
- Write a first sentence. Just write it. Then develop the story around that sentence.
- Ask your kids for a story idea. Odd, I know, but a child’s imagination is readily available at all times.
- Pictures. I stumbled across a beautiful book of fantasy artwork; knights dueling, sorcerers playing with magic, the life on the page palpable. I’d look at one of these pictures and get inside the mind of the person on the page. What are they feeling,? What are they doing? What is it they intend? Ideas flowed from doing this.
There is no secret formula to using and exercising your imagination. All you need do is relax your mind and let it naturally take you to another place. You have to give yourself permission to do this. With time the atrophy will disappear and a rock hard muscle will take its place. You just need resolve, discipline, and perhaps some external inspration to get your imagination cooking.