The Problem with Imagination

Artists tend to be characterised by at least one commonly shared characteristic.  They tend to be imaginative and have active, agile imaginations.  That’s a good thing, right?  Mostly right.

If imagining comes easily to you, there is a danger.  A facile imagination is much easier to exercise than the discipline of getting something done.  For most artists, imagining the result is much easier than actually producing it.  At a macro level, it’s much easier to dream your life than to live your dream.  Imaginative people often have to struggle against their natural comfort zone – to sit and dream up all sorts of new, innovative and exciting things.  To actually translate that vision into something tangible, or worse to have to communicate the vision to the people that you need to help you realise it, can be an utter chore.   It’s necessary, though.

One solution is to become so practised and fluid at producing, that the psychological intertia that exists between imagining and creating is overcome.  The trick is to make the realisation of your ideas come easily to you.  It may never come as easily as imagining, but closer is better.  That’s a nice zone to live in, if you can do it.

Imaginative people often have a broad range of ideas.  They tend to think about lots of things at once.  That’s not strictly true, as your imagination can become obsessed with a single thing for a while, but it is true to say that the imaginative are easily distracted, particularly when things get boring.  Imaginative people would much rather be imagining than engaging in tedious small talk or spending time doing something mundane.  Imagining feels much better than doing something routine.

If you are imaginative, it is often true to say that you can see a better way, or at least a different alternative, so with imagination comes a nagging dissatisfaction with the status quo.  Imaginative people can imagine a better world and consequently feel obligated to change the world to be better.  That’s quite a task to set for yourself.  As imaginative as you are, always remember you’re only human.  If you can’t change the world, then change what you can of it.  Your imaginative ideas are valuable, even if nobody else thinks so yet.

Because you see differently, most people will look upon you as a loon.  You are, by definition, out of step with orthodoxy.  You can see a different outcome.  You know a different way of looking at things.  Don’t expect the gift of imagination to prevent you from feeling isolated and alone, at times.  Being imaginative means you will be different to the vast majority of people that do not exercise their imaginations enough.

Encounters with people that gaze upon some expression or other of your imaginative ideas (e.g. your art) can lead to some pretty perplexing conversations.  If somebody sees your art and comments that they wish they were as bold as you in creating their own art, you might have a feeling of not understanding why they are saying that to you or even what they mean when they say it.  Maybe what it really means is that they wish they were as imaginative as you.  It’s actually a compliment.  Unfortunately, if you are imaginative, you don’t know any other way to be.  There’s nothing bold about just being.  That’s why the encounter can seem jarring.

The other unfortunate aspect of having a fertile and fecund imagination is that because the world consists mostly of people that are habitually less imaginative, ideas are not valued according to their real or eventual worth.  Fortunately, results are.  If you can produce results from your ideas, you stand a better chance of being rewarded for your insights.  Not that reward is the goal.  For most imaginative people, the sheer joy of imagining is reward enough.  On the other hand, nobody likes to see others gain handsomely from their ideas while they starve.  It can seem unjust, especially if you did put the work in to realise your imaginative ideas.

All that said, it’s far better to be imaginative than not.  We all need those great ideas.  Who could imagine being any different?

About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
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3 Responses to The Problem with Imagination

  1. Janet says:

    You are brilliant.. I love your posts!

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