Your most important fiction-writing tool is your imagination. You want it to be strong, supple and unfettered, like a child’s. Last week I scrawled out a few thoughts for how part-time fiction writers can lubricate a rusted-up imagination. Here are a few more suggestions for you.
You might want to try concentrating on a particular aspect of your story and seeing how far you can push it in your imagination. Take setting, for example. Step away from any writing instruments and close your eyes. Picture the setting as best you can. Now, walk into it yourself and use your five senses to experience it. Look closely at the people, the plants, the architecture. Listen to the birds and the traffic. Take in the cooking smells wafting out of doorways. You get the idea.
You can do the same thing with characters. Talk with them just like you used to talk with your imaginary friend. Turn yourself invisible and watch what they do as they go through their day.
In some circles, this kind of thing is called visualization. I prefer focused daydreaming.
How long has it been since you just played? By play, I mean doing something fun without much thought of organization or results. Well, get yourself to the nearest crafts aisle and grab some paints, some clay, markers, or whatever you like. Go crazy putting some colors down on some kind of surface. I doesn’t have to be good, or even finished. Just be spontaneous.
If visual art isn’t your thing, then kick a ball around, look for bugs under rocks, get into some cosplay, pick up an instrument you know nothing about, make something useless in your wood shop… the possibilities are endless.
One thing you can try, if all else fails, is to go outside with no means of entertaining yourself. Stand around for a little while. Chances are you’ll get bored. Don’t start pulling weeds, but remember you’re out there to play, and see what happens.
An important extension of play is exploration. Few things will shake your mind up like going to an unfamiliar locale. You don’t have to go to great lengths. Try going to work by a different route, or take the bus if you don’t usually do that. Go to a different grocery store to shop. If you’ve got a trip between towns, take the small highways instead of the interstates; it’ll take longer, but you’ll see a lot more. Of course, if you’ve got the time and the scratch, a trip to somewhere exotic is always appropriate.
Wherever you go, don’t be passive in your observations. Make a conscious effort to exercise all five of your senses. Sometimes I’ll do a checklist in my head: “What I am seeing right now? What smells are coming through? What’s touching me – or vice-versa – and how does it feel?” And don’t just take what comes – seek out the interesting stuff and go toward it (unless it’s something like a maniac with a machine pistol… you want to go away from that—let’s not get carried away).
The suggestions in this post aren’t the only ways to recapture you childlike imagination. Surely, you can come up with many more. The one thing they all have in common is that you have to practice them. If you engage in an imagination-building exercise once and leave it at that, the likelihood it’s going to do you any good drops by about 99%. Make nurturing your imagination a regular practice and it will serve you well.
If you liked this post, please check out Recalling the Fiction Writer’s Childlike Imagination, Part 1
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