Someone said all you need to be a writer is an imagination and curiosity. (Add to that, stamina.) Your imagination is in the unique, individual way you see the world, the particular and specific details you notice, and the connections you make. More than merely your experience, it is the way you contemplate and interpret your experience. Henry James said, “[Experience] is the very atmosphere of the mind; and when the mind is imaginative . . . it takes to itself the faintest hints of life, it converts the very pulses of air into revelations.”
How can you tell whether the imagination is present, not only in your writing but also in your life?
• You feel a strong urge to create — to write, to paint, to play music, to dance, to make art.
• Your writing is bold, full of passion and life. “Violent passions emit the Real, Good and Perfect tones,” William Blake said.
• You experience great freedom in your writing, leaping from image to image as if your words were Baryshnikov and your notebook the stage.
• You work innocently, not from the ego and not to please or impress.
• You are comfortable doing nothing. For long stretches of time.
• You trust your writing and your experience.
• You live in the present moment because you know that is where imagination will look for you.
• You meander rather than stride calisthenically; you notice the form and colors of leaves, the shape of clouds, the curve of a hill.
• Your writing (and your life) surprises you.
• You try some new thing rather than doing the same old same old — even if the tried and true was great.
• You believe you will never run out of ideas.
• You don’t plan what you are going to do — you just do it; the planning comes later. And even the planning is creative, lively, inspired.
• You go forth (in your writing and your life) with no fear.
• You gaze out windows for long periods of time and stare into treetops; you’ve been accused of daydreaming.
• You write new, raw, wild stuff instead of rewriting the same piece endlessly.
• You converse about your characters as if they were fully alive.
• You are completely yourself. That’s when ideas come, according to Mozart, who knew these things.
• You make up things with the abandon of a child. Spontaneity thrills you.
• You write without the need to prove anything.
• You live your life fully, submerging yourself completely in the experience of it.
You cannot force imagination to be present, but if you are in no hurry, “free, good-natured and at ease,” it will appear, according to Brenda Ueland, who said, “The imagination is always searching in us and trying to free what we really think.”
Do any of these descriptions fit you? Excite you? Go… do it!
Excerpted from A Writer’s Book of Days