Imagination

imagination“Imagination is the voice of daring. If there is anything Godlike about God it is that. He dared to imagine everything.” – Henry Miller

When I tell people I’m a writer they usually say something about a writer being required to have imagination. Or something like that. And I don’t think imagination is really that important. Yes, it’s kind of a cool thing, but I don’t think it’s a crucial factor to being a writer, or any other kind of artist, for that matter.

I often say that what we admire most in any form of artistic expression is the human element… that core we can all relate to (or respond to, or understand or hate.) All great stories are about people, about how they interact with each other and how they react to certain events.

And you don’t really need imagination to do that. You have to live life, to absorb as much as possible. Maybe that’s the most  quality an artist should have: the ability to see more than what others can’t see, to see all the billion things hidden in plain sight, to see what others are too busy to see.

Imagination is just the ability to create a bunch of what if scenarios. To create a world different than this one, to build upon what other built before you.

A friend of mine says that imagination is more important than education. I believe Einstein also said something like that.

Maybe there’s a bit of truth there. Don’t know. You be the judge of that.

All I can say is that imagination is a great thing to have, this ability to create something out of something else is what makes a person a visionary, but it’s not the single most important factor in what makes a great writer. After all, two people staring out the same window will see two different worlds.

The tricky part is figuring out what is it that you see.

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18 comments on “Imagination

  1. avwalters says:

    So then, observation trumps imagination?

    • Not necessarily. But I suppose imagination derives from observation. You need to see the world, absorb it, then you can alter it. Imagination is an act of rebellion somehow… you want to create a world that is different from the one you’re living in, which means that you first have to acknowledge and observe reality.

  2. Great post! Thanks for sharing.

  3. good article – well done, as always!

  4. Jennwith2ns says:

    Nice post. I’ll be thinking about this for a while.

    As a child I did have a purple bookmark with an elegant silver unicorn on it which said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” attributing it to Albert Einstein. I’m not sure how he would have felt about the unicorn, but I liked it.

  5. Ashley-Anna says:

    I agree that imagination is not the only important aspect to writing. However, I believe that it is what differentiates a good writer from a great one. Without imagination, there isn’t the sense of curiosity and wonder that is in the core of all great fantasy novels. I do understand what you’re saying, but I believe that you must have an equal amount of both imagination and knowledge in order to be a good writer. At least that’s my opinion.

  6. glitterginwords says:

    I’m inclined to agree. I’m not particularly imaginative. Everyone day dreams, makes up stories, fantasises etc. I think it’s more about finding a way to transcribe the things in your head onto paper; to paint those daydreams with words so other people can share them.
    Interesting post, something to think about!

  7. mostcommon says:

    That was great, but I honestly do love my imagination. Without it I wouldn’t be who I am today. I don’t think anyone artistic would have any inspiration without it.

  8. “Maybe that’s the most quality an artist should have: the ability to see more than what others can’t see, to see all the billion things hidden in plain sight, to see what others are too busy to see.”

    I love that & it is totally true. Writers are usually observant & opinionated :-) . A little imagination I believe is required but I think more so being aware of our surroundings is key and being able to express what others have difficulty doing.

  9. Elan Mudrow says:

    Writing a story doesn’t take imagination. We are all storytellers of some type, from explaining the crazy person we ran into while waiting for a movie, to the Greek’s writing down vocalized stories that are now studied in school. I think what Einstein refers to in his famous quote is the ability to come up with ‘new’ ways. As a writer, one can learn the craft. A unique imagination breaks the established craft and splinters it in a myriad of directions. The problem with writing is that most people (especially young writers) view it as the latter (new means) when it normally works as the former.(craft) And that, my friends, ‘is’ a story of humanness.

  10. graceandstrength says:

    I think imagination is important, not because it can make you a good writer, but because it allows you to appreciate the diversity of your thoughts, it allows you to take something as it is, and make it even more interesting. Sure, you can have the ablity to see what others can’t see, but it takes imagination to turn that something into what you see with your own eyes, to make people see what you see. To share the workings of your mind, because that’s the very core of wanting to be a writer/artist.

  11. I find myself staring out the window all the time and always imagine that I write something interesting or humourous or deep. Instead, only nonsense comes out… Seriously though, education of some sort, should be the foundation to the building blocks of the imagination.

  12. Agree. Apart from imagination, a good writer is able to see more than what others can, able to feel and express what you see and feel and pen them down in simple and beautiful ways in which every reader can easily understand and relate to. Thanks for the post.

  13. “You have to live life, to absorb as much as possible. Maybe that’s the most quality an artist should have: the ability to see more than what others can’t see, to see all the billion things hidden in plain sight, to see what others are too busy to see.”

    Totally agree!!

  14. You’ve had lots of good comments regarding imagination. I thought I had an answer, but after reading some of these, I’ve put another take on it. As a child I was told I had a good imagination; I created imaginary worlds for my children; now, in my older years, I’m told I just imagined it. :)
    Hopefully, my imagination will earn me a living.

  15. simon7banks says:

    The statement that all great stories are about people seems obvious. But some excellent stories have been written about animals from the animal point of view and although the vast majority of Science Fiction concentrates on a human viewpoint, not all does: see David Brin’s “The Uplift War” for example. I’m not at all sure that nothing has been written principally about non-humans that could be called great.

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