Nate Pruitt, author of Creative in God's Image, stopped by today to talk to us about our most incredible—yet sometimes, overlooked—quality: imagination. Nate is also a speaker, minister, and father to three adorable kids. You can keep up with him and his busy imagination here.
We’ve all been there. The story is rolling along, life is good, words are flowing, and suddenly—without warning—it dries up and disappears. Our character development and outlining mean nothing because we have hit a gap in the plot. There is grinding, screeching, and crashing as the train barrels off the tracks. When the dust settles, the cursor keeps blinking, but the world—at least, the one being created—has completely stopped.
What could we possibly do? I say, get up!
Seriously, when did this problem ever happen to us as kids? When we acted out our stories from our imaginations, it typically took the “real world” interfering to drag us out of the fantastical. But that was then, this is now, and now we’re scared. We’re terrified of looking foolish, even when alone. Being so self-critical, we demand that we not engage in such tomfoolery. However, acting out the scenario with imagination may be the catalyst for the next great writing burst!
What happens when you imagine? There’s a great scene in the film Hook where Peter Pan, who is now grown and has lost his connection to his inner child, sits at a table that is devoid of food. The Lost Boys are ready to eat and dive right in. Their imaginations are well at work, and they find themselves filled with this wondrous gift. Peter, however, is susceptible to insult and hunger. He is awash.
Writers tend to know the feeling. Without imagination, we lack words and substance. Yet as Peter begins to embrace the world around him for what it is, he opens up to its possibilities, ultimately acting out the splattered delivery of the imaginary food straight to Rufio’s nose in a very real, and triumphant, moment.
I posit that if we are to engage our fictional worlds in this way, we will find writing far more sustainable.
Here are some thoughts to consider about our embracing immersive, imaginative writing:
- Does my writing space have room for me to move and engage the world I’m creating?
- Am I willing to get all the way into my story so that it can best be told?
- Is the world of my writing present when I close my eyes, or do I need to dig deeper?
- When I get into my world in my imagination, am I then sharing what I experience, or leaving out illustrative details I’ve been taking for granted the reader should know?
- Do I have someone who is willing to be a helpful sounding board with whom I can safely imagine?
- Have I authentically represented the world of my story, or am I shying away out of fear of engaging my imagination?
- Do I believe my writing matters enough for me to be a little foolish to do its best?
If writing happens only on a flat screen or flat pad of paper, then it will remain equally flat. When our writing becomes a rich world in which we are actively engaged, it becomes a living, breathing reality we can generously share with our readers. A story worth telling is first a story worth full imaginative immersion.
What we’re dealing with here is not without dangers. Some stories are difficult. When we write the darkest parts of stories and realities, it is a challenging place to be. C. S. Lewis addressed this in regard to his classic, The Screwtape Letters, in which the narrative is presented in the person of an official of “his Satanic Majesty’s Lowerarchy.” Telling the story from this dark perspective meant that Lewis’s own understanding of reality had to be reversed. He explained the danger thusly, “Making goods ‘bad’ and bads ‘good’ gets to be fatiguing.”
Undoubtedly, the imaginative writer should be careful when engaging dark realities. Coming up for air and resting accordingly, even if it requires breaks from the subject matter entirely, can be most critical. Any story that carries triggers, and most conflict can be a trigger, can lead to fatigue for the writer. And what’s a story without conflict? So please be cautious and mindful of where your imagination takes you and monitor those results.
Writing is a wondrous gift and worth exploring deeply. It merits the best of our imagination, even if we’re not writing fiction. To sit in one space and do monotonous tasks with little to no imagination will come through as drudgery to the reader too. Get up, embrace your writing by diving into the world of your imagination, and you’ll find your readers will be better able to embrace your writing as well. Tell a story that’s a group hug!