“…imagination is the single most useful tool mankind possesses…” Ursula Le Guin
Kids vs. Adults
I’ll never forget a conversation I overheard between a mother and her young child. The girl was drawing and created a what looked like a green fruit. The child looked proudly at her mom and said, “Look Mommy, I drew a green apple!” Her mother replied, “There’s no such thing as a green apple! What’s wrong with you?” The child looked crushed. Another brick was added to the wall between this young lady and her imagination.
Grown Ups vs. Fear of Looking Foolish
Most of us spend are childhoods drawing ‘green apples’ (which, as we all know, do actually exist) and then, experience people tell us that we’re ‘wrong.’ This is particularly strange since we live in a culture that, supposedly, cherishes and encourages individual expression. So what happens and why does it happen?
I overheard this conversation 20 years ago and it stayed with me. You all probably have your own stories of squashed imaginations. If not, then it’s likely that your imagination was mangled, perhaps more subtly, over the years.
Even today, I hear people with ‘good intentions’, voicing their negative opinions about what other people are creating or imagining. First, be aware when you are being “squished.”
Falling in Love
The most important thing to do, is make sure you are aware of your imagination. Like other muscles…it has to be exercised, otherwise it grows flabby and useless. Find your way of stretching and building your imagination, the same way you exercise your body… pay attention to this precious asset.
Ideas for Exercising Imagination
- Notice details – Look at something for a minute (a photo, look out the window, etc.) then look away and write down as many things as you can remember.
- Change your perspective – Pretend you are a bird (what’s it like to see the world from the tree tops? Pretend you are a dog, a cat, a lion,or a giraffe.
- Imagine you live somewhere completely different – I don’t mean just a different state or even country, how about a different planet or even a black hole?
If you can find a friend to share your crazy thoughts and ideas with then great! You are lucky. This person cheers for you because you have ideas and enjoy creating. They do not judge. They don’t even have to give ANY feedback. Just sit with you while you exercise! Now do the same, for someone else.
When you can, listen to another person’s ideas. You don’t have to give your feedback unless asked. Smile, nod, encourage. Non-judgemental listening is exercise too. Fall in love with one of your most important assets; that little place in your brain that says… hey, I’m gonna draw a purple apple.
Image credit: Top 35 Albert Einstein quotes