Where does your imagination reside?

This year, I am making a conscious effort to reawaken a sense of curiosity and do things that spark my imagination. It’s something I suppose I have been putting off for some time, because I guess I liked to think that I already possessed these qualities.

But now that I have more time to ponder and daydream, I’ve been forced to admit that they are not as strong as they once were and that I am more naturally inclined to think about, well, boring stuff when given half the chance.

Is this a symptom of getting older or does it have something to do with letting myself live a life that is ruled by deadlines and making enough money? I also wonder how much of it is just plain old laziness. Why imagine things when someone else could do it for me? (I do love it when someone else does it for me.)

As part of this project, I’m trying to work out exactly what it is that is most likely to persuade my imagination into a flight of fancy. I’m reading loads, going to exhibitions, restricting the watching of TV shows and generally trying to not check the emails on my phone every five minutes.

Me as a wee 'un

But am I missing something here? Is there anything you do to shake your mind out of the mundane?

I recently wrote a guest post for the lovely Kirsty Logan for her Thievery series – posts about the inspiration behind stories – and I enjoyed the process a lot, mainly because it encouraged me to recall some childhood holidays I hadn’t thought about for a long while.

Safeguarding the spark

Some people seem to rain sparks. Their ideas come thick and fast, characters emerge fully formed from the flames and entire fiery vistas open in front of them the second they close their eyes.

Not me. I’m a slow burner. Each new idea feels like a long struggle with a tinderbox, a soggy attempt with two stones or a slow alignment of a magnifying glass and the pages of my notebook. And when an idea does catch alight, it’s not guaranteed. It needs careful attendance and nurturing.

I ignore the spark at my peril. If I leave it alone for long enough, I’ll come back to find a small scorch mark that smells of all the cigarettes I’ve decided not to smoke any more.

Feed the spark too much, and it is smothered. It dies off before it has the chance to take hold, and my head is full of smoke and regrets.

A few days, weeks, months of tending this little idea carefully, looking at it from behind shielded eyes, being careful not to let a cold rain of self-doubt touch it, and it might turn into something bigger. If I’m lucky.

Dreams – some misty inspiration

I had an awesome dream last night. It had heroes and villains, mysterious substances that had the power to turn people into mutants and an inflatable skate park. The main character was a teenage boy and he and his father ended up defeating the baddies.

I loved it. My favourite dreams are always the ones where I get to witness the action without having to play a part in the action

As always, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking to myself ‘now that dream was actually good and coherent, you should write it down.’ Followed by ‘It’s so vivid though, there’s no chance I’ll have forgotten it by the morning.’

Yeah right. The short summary from above was but a fragment of a gloriously hyper-coloured whole. But what good would writing it down have done? I never would have been able to capture the essence of such a strange experience in such a groggy state.

I’ve never successfully managed to translate any part of any of my dreams into a decent piece of writing. It doesn’t matter how hard I try to force the feelings to make sense they refuse. It makes me wonder how closely our emotions in dreams are attached to the things that are actually happening. Maybe something new to research. Or maybe I should just spend more time sleeping and less time trying to write about it.

Reality shows as writing inspiration

I have a love/hate relationship with reality TV shows. On one hand I genuinely worry that they are in danger of diluting the pool of decent TV shows to the extent that no one will know what it means to write a compelling series anymore, and on the other hand I think they can be a fantastic resource for writers – think of the exposure to people you would never come across in your day-to-day life shows like Big Brother offer.

While I find many reality offerings rather exploitative, a selection of American talk shows for example, there are some that at least do seem to offer something like decent advice and support for their participants. Not that that’s done the Jeremy Kyle show many favours recently. But when I’m not squirming at the horror of seeing the hopes, fears and dreams of some teenage girl dashed on screen, I’m busy filing mental notes about exactly the way she looked as she realised the world didn’t work the way she’d always assumed.

I also find that it salves the conscience to assume that there are different categories of reality TV show and that some are worse than others. For example, ‘fat kids humiliated in camp’ could have future benefits for the child while ‘I’m addicted to meth, attention and public breakdowns’ probably doesn’t. Shows like the Secret Millionaire however, well, I just can’t see a single bad side to them. Except that the heart warming reaffirmation we receive at the end of every programme doesn’t exactly provide me with juicy material!

Real life – the writer’s best and worst friend

When I started blogging I assumed I’d end up giving it up pretty quickly. While that hasn’t happened (yet!), this last week has reminded me how easy it is to let writing slip when your real life intervenes.

I’ve had a mental week, some things have been good, some things bad and some just stressful. This has meant that I’ve had little time for writing, and of course the fact that I’ve been failing to meet my internal daily/weekly goals has been making me feel even worse.

However, the experience has lefty me feeling rather contemplative, and not just because I’ll take any excuse for a day dream. The question I’ve been pondering is: without a few madcap weeks every now and then, would I be a lot worse off for material? Nothing I write is biographical, and I never transpose real life experiences straight into fiction, but without that kind of frantic inspiration actual bad experiences give you I have a suspicion the creative process would be that much harder.

Therefore, real life must be a writer’s best friend, as well as their worst. Without the world kicking me in the teeth or providing me with good news that sometimes almost defies belief every now and then, I could easily become complacent and fail to capture things as I actually see them – instead relying on flimsy imaginary constructions. The only problem is trying to keep real life at bay long enough to scribble the thoughts down! Hopefully the coming weeks will give me the opportunity to do just that.