This is my grandson, Reece. He’s five. And he chose to be a scientist for his kindergarten community helper day.
Now I ask you, why would a five-year-old want to be a scientist for community helper day? This has puzzled his mother and me all week. To our knowledge, Reece doesn’t know any scientists, nor has his teacher ever suggested that our community has one helping out somewhere.
Here’s my theory.
The kid has an imagination that goes far beyond what most would call normal limits. Really. This is the same child that claims he can teleport into his top bunk. He’s also drawn a treasure map with “X” marks the spot, fully convinced that there is truly a treasure buried there. Wherever that may be. I don’t think he even knows. Or maybe he does, and we’re just too grown up to see it. Oh, and he was muttering “shiver me timbers” during the creation of the map. So, if you really think about it, the whole scientist concept isn’t much of a stretch for him.
I love it.
This is imagination as it should be.
And I pray with all my heart that the teachers and adult influences Reece has in the years to come will be astute enough to allow his mind to soar. I pray that they teach him how to think and not what to think. He has a tremendous gift. He is destined to think things, to create things, to do things that no one else can. How completely wonderful is that!
By the way, the glasses are not real. The magnifying glass is.
I have already admitted to you that I am a little bit out there when it comes to the way I think, so anything you read in this blog should come as no surprise. Right? I see that a few of you are still withholding your opinions. That’s okay.
Today I tried to explain to one of my co-workers the correlation between tablecloth and caber toss. He didn’t understand. (If any of my children are reading this, they will know exactly what I am talking about.) The poor young man, one whom I thought would be chock-full of imagination, looked at me with a perfectly blank stare. Don’t you get it? I asked him. He shook his head. Meanwhile, another co-worker stepped up to help me out. She had no trouble with the concept. See.
Yesterday, yet another co-worker rendered his explanation of time travel. Don’t you get it? He asked me. I nodded enthusiastically, because what he said made total sense. At least, to me.
It’s along the same lines as the people who live in the trees, but not quite. (This is the point where my children throw up their hands and walk away. Even they aren’t that accepting of their mother’s rather bizarre thought processes.)
What’s the moral of this blog post? Hmm. Not sure there is one. Oh wait! Maybe there is.
Sometimes you have to look beyond what you know to be normal because after all, what is normal to you may not be normal to someone else.
Don’t you get it?
I have dozens of books on writing. I’ve attended conferences and seminars on writing. I’ve taken writing courses, read hundreds of articles on writing, and even talked to published writers about writing. There seems to be a common thread with all of these resources. They all say write what you know.
Isn’t that just the stupidest thing you ever heard?
The problem is, I believed it for years. Decades, even. I used it as an excuse not to write because I really didn’t know very much, so therefore I wouldn’t be able to write anything worthy of a reader’s time.
I believed a lie.
Okay, okay, I get that you need to know stuff if you’re going to write a technical manual or some such thing. But even with that, you’d be shocked to find out how many of those books and articles are actually written by people who know absolutely nothing about the subject. In my corporate days, we would hire technical writers to come in and write our procedures manuals. We gave them the information. They churned out the books. And they knew absolutely nothing about our business.
I present to you the truth. Write what you don’t know.
In the land of fiction writing, your imagination is your most valuable tool. It’s your survival gear. Without it, you perish. You can’t possibly know everything there is to know about everything. But you can imagine it. You can create it in your mind and bring it to life as you write.
Do you know that the human mind cannot distinguish between something you’ve actually experienced and an experience you’ve vividly imagined? I like that. Because I can, just like that, write about something I don’t know as if it really happened. How sneaky is that?
Now I just need to figure out how to vividly imagine that my house is clean.
My five year old grandson, Reece, is famous for coming up with the cutest way of saying the most illogical things. I’m convinced that much of it is due to the fact that he is left-handed and his brain just works differently than everyone else’s, but then what do I know?
We were in the car on Tuesday and Reece informed me that he had gone that same way with his mother “today, yesterday, and the other tomorrow”. I asked him what the other tomorrow was and he very matter of factly stated, “you know, the one before tomorrow and yesterday”. I thought it best not to prod further since it was confusing enough. To me; not to Reece.
But it got me thinking about alternate worlds and multiple futures and all that weird fantasy sci fi stuff. The very elements that suck me into a really good, unbelievably believable story. The possibilities are endless when you allow your imagination to take flight. Which most people don’t, by the way.
What if the other tomorrow is right down the street from where you live? You know the little forest that dips into a deep gully over there – the one you walk by several times a week on your way to wherever you are going? What if the other tomorrow is in there? What if it’s under the escalator at the mall? What if it’s through that door at the back of your closet that you always thought was the attic access? (Yeah, I know, that one is kind of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe-ish.) What if the other tomorrow is what’s happening right now and you have to find away to get back to today?
See what I mean?
Whatever you can imagine, you can write. Or draw. Or design. Or sing.
Where is your other tomorrow?
I video Skype with two of my grandsons almost every day, even though we live in the same city. They are little guys – Nikolas is almost 3 and Elijah just turned 1 – so their imaginations haven’t had the brakes installed. I love “playing” with the boys via Skype because as far as they are concerned, I am right there in the room with them. I can tickle them (with a little help from their mommy), play peekaboo, pretend to eat their play food, read them a story, and blow them kisses. Nikolas will even beckon me to follow him when he goes to his room to show me a special toy or book. So mommy has to unplug her laptop and take me to Nik’s destination.
The author and physicist Arthur Clarke once said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. It’s really true. Our video communication, in Nikolas and Elijah’s minds, is magic – where imagination becomes reality.
The same thing happens when we write a story. We imagine people, places, events. When we put them all together, magic happens and they become reality in the minds of our readers. That’s what good fiction does. And we, the writers, are the ones who have the privilege of being the conduit of that process.
I don’t take my imagination for granted. It’s too important. I need that child-like ability to think and dream and plan.
I have a vision for the future.
I see what isn’t. Yet.
I have an eight year old grandson (GC2*) who doesn’t get the whole creative process. He has a very analytic, sequential nature and doesn’t see why anyone would want to make up a story. His five year old brother (GC4*), on the other hand, lives in his own little world of make-believe, and logic is completely out of his realm of understanding.
I tend to be more like GC4 – storyteller, make-it-up-as-you-go, daydreamer extraordinaire. This enables me to imagine the most wonderful characters and bizarre worlds for them to live in. Unfortunately, these mind-blowing imaginations don’t always translate well into a cohesive story. But I also have a bit of the thinker trait like GC2, and that is what allows me to take all those wild creative thoughts and nail them down in a fairly logical order.
So, here’s some insight I’ve picked up from my grandsons.
You absolutely need the wild and crazy imagination. Don’t let anyone tell you that your ideas and visions and goals are too far off the deep end, because those are the ideas and visions and goals that set you apart from everyone else. You have to be able to let yourself see what isn’t there. That’s faith, pure and simple. It’s everything that makes life worth living. It’s your handle on what you can’t see. Trust that God, who is the ultimate Creator, has given you the ability to create as well. You are made in His likeness after all.
You also need the boundaries of logic and reason to help you tie those creations into something that works. Without those boundaries, your idea goes off into the wild blue yonder, waving goodbye, never to be seen again.
Don’t let blank pages intimidate you. See what isn’t there. Now go and get it.
* I have seven grandchildren, referred to in my blog as Grandchild 1 (GC1), Grandchild 2 (GC2), and so on.