“I believe in the power of the imagination to remake the world, to release the truth within us, to hold back the night, to transcend death, to charm motorways, to ingratiate ourselves with birds, to enlist the confidences of madmen.”
― J.G. Ballard
“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”
― Albert Einstein
How often do you just let your imagination run wild? We get some stern messaging from the world about indulging our imaginations — unless we’re exercising it for the purpose of increasing productivity or brainstorming solutions (Ugh. To both). But just allowing our imaginations to flow free and uninhibited is where the real magic is. Wading unassumingly into its pool of enchanted waters is where we can discover the stories we need to write, the work that truly captivates us, even the steps we need to take to bring those dreams and visions into being.
One of my earliest memories of this sort of magic recalls endless trips to the bookstore with my mother. I can’t remember a time when visits to bookstores and libraries weren’t a part of the routine of life. A lot of times we wouldn’t even buy anything. My mom and brother and I would just wander and discover. We never needed a reason to go on these book-based adventures. It was just something we did.
When I would get inside the Waldenbooks, or B. Dalton’s, or the Little Professor (Barnes & Noble wasn’t an option way back then), I would become giddy with excitement to plunge into one of my favorite activities: smelling the pages of the new books. For some reason, when I would inhale the scent of fresh pages, I would imagine where all these books came from. I was too little to understand that books were written by people and made by printers. Instead I imagined a vast orchard of trees, each of which had hundreds of books hanging from the branches. I imagined that every tree grew one particular title and that all the copies on the tree were half-covered in a leafy stalk that had to be shucked and disposed of before the book could be shipped. To do this, obviously there was an immense army of book farmers who rose daily with the sun and picked the freshest books, proofread them for mistakes, and packed them in wooden crates to send off to bookstores around the world. All this I knew to be absolutely true from smelling the pages.
How powerful is your imagination that it can conjure a whole world in the time it takes you to breathe? It might just be our most amazing instrument.
The illustration for this article is from my new picture book for children, The Adventures Of Edison Matthews (Sick Picnic Press) and is a whimsical rendering of the imaginary book orchard I’ve been carrying around in my head for years. In fact, the story is a playful dialogue between a father and son that’s meant to demonstrate the most vital power of our imaginations — to remake the world we currently experience into the world as we wish it could be. If you’re so inclined, you can pre-order a copy HERE.
But more importantly, I want to encourage you to let your imagination run wild. Follow those odd inklings until they turn into full-blown flights of fancy. Take the unfamiliar winding path that intrigues you. Spout nonsense at the bank. Crawl through the department store like the racks are a jungle canopy. And, whenever you can, play. Especially when the world around you seems to be saying it’s pointless. Because that’s when the good stuff happens.
Keep dreaming, making, and imagining anything.