I’ve blogged about imagination before but the subject has come up in several conversations these past few, busy, weeks and got me thinking about it in greater depth. My conversation partners all lamented the lack of imagination in the people they'd recently had dealings with.
As a writer I take imagination for granted, not in a bad way, I just know I have it and use it in just about everything I do. But like some friends I talked to, I’m noticing more and more a lack of imagination in the world around me.
It is a valuable tool, not just for writers and artists. Without imagination we wouldn’t have some of greatest inventions, or the daily tools/toys we use to do our jobs. But in talking to people in business and engineering I see many do not use this tool and, in fact, they often lack the skill.
Sometimes imagination is confused with visualization or fantasy.
Fantasy gave us 50 Shades of Grey, imagination gave us Lady Chatterly’s Lover. Big difference. Both widely read, both controversial, but each distinctly different in quality of story and writing (and I’ll leave it at that).
Visualization, though closely related to imagination is the end goal of imagination. It is the goal we keep in mind, whereas imagination can show us the steps to get there, the variables, the feelings, the things we might need. Imagination becomes the fuel that lets us work toward that goal.
Engineers, for example, who uses their imagination before creating a 3-D model on the computer, and then in real life, will do so faster and more accurately because they will have already ‘seen’ how things fit together and how they might work.
Or, similarly, a recruiter who uses imagination to ‘see’ the actual position behind the job description the client gives them will more likely find suitable candidates instead of just those people whose resumes have the words that match the description.
And finally, imagination allows us all the ability to step outside of ourselves and get a sense of what someone else might be going through. It facilitates empathy and the ability to help others; it is what allows a writer to create multidimensional characters, ones readers can relate to.
Children who are allowed to indulge in imaginative - unstructured - play grow up to be better problem solvers. Volumes have been written on this alone.
Imagination is essential for success in all things. Perhaps schools, especially those focused on STEM curricula should include a unit on imagining; (re)learning to use imagination in life.
I’m contemplating creating a workshop, there are several simple exercises that help not only artists and writers, but anyone interested in adding another tool to their kit. Let see if I can squeeze that into my schedule.