Imagination has been the single most important aspect of my writing. That might seem like a bold statement to some of you. Certainly, there is more to writing than imagination for there are many other traits you must possess to be a successful writer. Discipline, technique, skill, understanding of language and grammar—all of these are needed to further a career in writing. For me, imagination is the fire that fuels all of these things.
My mom was never shy about telling people about my overactive imagination (she’s a regular around this blog, so she just might tell you all about it). She worked a good half hour away from home, and since my daycare was close to her work, she had the pleasure of listening to my stories every day during the commute. In these early years, she was the outlet for my imagination, and because of her encouragement, she taught me to be a storyteller.
As I got older and my daycare moved closer to home, my primary outlet for my imagination (my mom) became scarce. My mom would still listen to my stories, but she was no longer my captive audience, and so everyday life had a tendency to cause interruptions. I think this was when I really started to live in my own world. Even though my imaginary friends had disappeared, I found imaginary worlds to take their place.
I would find excuses to lag behind the other kids when we walked to school, letting my imaginary worlds envelope me. I often spent recess playing by myself or with the few friends I had that could play along in my worlds. Hell, I played baseball with the YMCA in second grade and I couldn’t focus on the game because I was too caught up with my imagination (they stuck me far out in left field). I spent most of my childhood caught up in my imaginary worlds, and life just moved around me. People or places would interact or infuse themselves into my imagination or they wouldn’t.
In the fourth grade, I finally found a new outlet for my imagination from my teacher, Mary Jean McDonald. Supportive and encouraging of creativity, Mrs. McDonald taught me how to find outlets for my imagination. She read stories to us like “Where the Red Fern Grows” that taught me how much impact character development can have. She taught me how to write descriptively, to put my imagination into words. In the end, she inspired me, and I turned her lessons into a love for reading and writing. At last, I had a new outlet for imagination. The beast no longer needed a cage in my own head!
By the time I got into Junior High (Middle School for the rest of the world), I’d done so much reading and experimental writing that I felt confident finally writing down my stories and starting in on my writing career. I wanted to tell my stories to the world, and so I began doing just that. Imagination continued to be the driving force though. My walks to and from school would often find me absorbed in my worlds so I could write them all down as soon as I got home. My first “book” was born from the process, and though it was a pretty major dud, I didn’t give up. I let my imagination take me to another world, one that would eventually become home to Darr Reintol and Spirit Summoner.
In the past few years, I’m sad to say that my imagination has dwindled some. Between work and editing and parenting, I haven’t found a good place to submerge myself in my worlds. But make no mistake, those worlds are still with me. I might be a little stagnant, but my imagination is still brimming with ideas, lurking in the back of mind and seeking to escape in a brilliant explosion of metaphors and dialogue.
As I child, I wanted only to tell my stories to the world. I still want that, but my need to put my imagination out into the world led me to learn to write. I studied writing, literature, and philosophy. I met other authors and writers, and I submerged myself in the world of publishing in an attempt to understand it. All of these skills were fueled by my imagination…the single most important aspect of my writing.