Develop your active imagination

What is the secret behind the men women whom we are accustomed to call imaginative geniuses -Shakespeare,Charles Dickens,Dante,Jack London, Poe, Defoe, Bunyan, J.K.Rowling'? Do they have unique communication with heaven or with any external reservoir of ideas? What is the source of their imaginative works?

The true secret of great writer's success is his industrious utilization of past experiences according to the program outlined below. He selects certain elements from his experiences and combines them in novel ways. This is the explanation of their strange, beautiful and bizarre productions. This is what Carlyle meant when he characterized genius as "the transcendent capacity for taking trouble" This is what Hogarth meant when he said, "Genius is nothing but labor and diligence." For concrete exemplification of this truth we need only turn to the autobiographies of great writers.

An active fertile imagination comes from crowding into one's life a large number of varied and vivid experiences; storing them up in the mind in the form of images; and industriously recalling and combining them in novel relationships. Mental images occur in other mental processes besides Imagination. More you develop ability to manipulate mental images more you can create wonderful imaginative work.
A very large part of the mental life of us consists in the manipulation of images. By images I mean the revivals of things that have been impressed upon the senses. Call to mind for the moment your mobile-number as it appears upon the screen of your mobile. In so doing you mentally reinstate something which has been impressed upon your senses many times; and you see it almost as clearly as if it were actually before you. The mental thing thus revived is called an image.

The word image is somewhat ill-chosen; for it usually signifies something connected with the eye, and implies that the stuff of mental images is entirely visual. The true fact of the matter is, we can image practically anything that we can sense. We may have tactual images of things touched; auditory images of things heard; gustatory images of things tasted; olfactory images of things smelled.

The most highly dramatic use of images is in connection with that mental process known as Imagination. As we study the romantic novels, we move in a realm almost wholly imaginary. And as we take a cross-section of our minds when thus engaged, we find them filled with images. Furthermore, they are of great variety--images of colors, sounds, tastes, smells, touches, even of sensations from our own internal organs, such as the palpitations of the heart that accompany feelings of pride, indignation, remorse, exaltation. A further characteristic is that they are sharp, clean-cut, and vivid.

Note in the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, the number, variety and vividness of the images:

"But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief?
That thou, her maid, art far fairer than she.
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green....
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness in her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy regions stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!"

You may conclude, then, that three of the desirable attributes of great works of the imagination are number, variety and vividness of mental images.

Now, what is the source of imagination in this balcony scene?  Inspiration, implying, or that some mysterious external force (called by the ancients, "A Muse") enters into the mind of the author with a special revelation. Psychological analysis of these imaginative works shows that this explanation is untrue. That the bizarre and apparently novel products arise from the experiences of the author revived in imagination and combined in new ways.

Images have their source in sensory experience, now that the first step to take is to seek a multitude of experiences. Make intimate acquaintance with the objects of your environment. Handle them, tear them apart, put them together, and place them next to other objects, noting the likenesses and differences. Thus you will acquire the stuff out of which images are made and will stock your mind with a number of images. Then when you wish to convey your ideas you will have a number of terms in which to do it--one of the characteristics of a free-flowing imagination.

The second characteristic is to be variety. To secure this, seek a variety of sensational experiences. Perceive the objects of your experience through several senses--touch, smell, sight, hearing, taste. By means of this variety in sensations you will secure corresponding variety in your images.

Now revive them, sometimes it requires practice as not all people naturally call up images related to the various senses with equal ease. Most people use visual and auditory images more freely than they do other kinds. In order to develop skill in evoking the others, practice recalling them. Sit down for an hour of practice, as you would sit down for an hour of piano practice. Try to recall the taste of raisins, English walnuts; the smell of hyacinths, of witch-hazel; the rough touch of an orange-skin. Though you may at first have difficulty you will develop, with practice, a gratifying facility in recalling all varieties of images.

The third characteristic which we observed in works of the imagination is vividness. To achieve this, pay close attention to the details of your sensory experiences. Observe sharply the minute but characteristic items.Stock your mind with a wealth of such detailed impressions. Keep them alive by the kind of practice recommended in the preceding paragraph. Then describe the objects of your experience in terms of these significant details.

Do a little exercise: Choose some word which you have had difficulty in learning. Look at it attentively, securing a perfectly clear impression of it; then practice calling up the visual image of it, until you secure perfect reproduction.


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