Educating myself to become the writer I was craving to be, I learned a very important lesson. A fellow fiction writer and student once said to me, “You don’t need an imagination to write a story.”
My bottom jaw felt like it had been railroad spiked to the desk. Two hours had passed and I still hadn’t said a word. (Even the teacher noticed my silence. I think it unnerved him a little.) A fiction writer who doesn’t have an imagination is no fiction writer. So in response to what perhaps is the weirdest and saddest quote I have ever heard, I wrote this article. It was the start of something bigger than a response. I fell in love with my imagination. This article, mistakes and all, was one of my first attempts at empowering others to do the same. I’m proud of it. It was not only published in Chisolm’s Fly Magazine, it was also published, with one slight difference, (no reference to teachers) in The Australian Writer. So here it is.
Use it. Abuse it. Just don’t lose it.
Have you ever heard of a pregnant mermaid desperately trying to open a can of anchovies? You haven’t? Have I hooked you in? Then my imagination has created something original. Let’s face it, all fiction writers possess one, so why not use it to its fullest advantage. Forget about the people who tell you that it is only for those who want to write fantasy. The notion is simple hogwash.
Unless you are a hard core non–fiction buff, the imagination can spin a simple story that’s been told over and over and make it unique, unpredictable and unusual, and yes they are the three U’s preached to us in the Professional Writing and Editing Course. See? The teachers do know what they’re talking about.
Children use their imaginations all of the time but alas, we have to grow up, and years of having reality forced upon us makes our lives dull and dreary. One of the reasons we read novels, short stories, poetry or even watch movies is to escape. Escapism. I just love that word.
If Bram Stoker had refrained from using his imagination, we wouldn’t have had any vampires stalking our nightmares or sexual fantasies — if that’s what you’re into. If Mary Shelley had not created Frankenstein, then zombies would never have plagued our darkest fears. There would be no comedy; there would be no action movies with heroes such as Superman, Batman or John McLain aka Bruce Willis, and what about Winnie the Pooh, Ben 10 or Kung Fu Panda?
Admitting that I am proud of my imagination, learning to embrace it, was the most euphoric moment in my education as a writer. My training wheels are off and god help those who tell me that an imagination is worthless. For
all I care, they can be dissolved by ravenous meat eating zombie snails.
Stop hiding in that little cube called negativity and replace it with creativity. Be confident. Have conviction. Have the courage to be different. Be very, very afraid of an imagination that is not exercised every day. Without a fit and healthy imagination you can’t write anything worth a damn. Get out there, be brave and have fun in writing something you have never tried before. You may even like it. Don’t stress out like a herniated muskrat, and forget the few who believe in restraint, we’re talking about fiction. Anything can happen.
If someone comes up to you and says, “What are you on?” take it as a compliment. Find a group of writers who will support and respect your individuality and write, write, write. Don’t fear the imagination; embrace it.
Now about that pregnant mermaid with a hankerin’ for some canned anchovies …