I wanted to take this post and talk with you about something that should be obvious to everybody (and especially to writers and artists) but is something that we’re drastically losing in this world, and in our nation in particular, and that’s the gift of imagination. Let me start with a little story that spurred this particular topic…
The other day I was doing my “cool down” time, which essentially amounts to me lying on my bed and doing nothing: no music, no TV, no internet/phone, nothing at all. Not even sleeping; just sitting down and letting my mind unwind and contemplate (That’s another issue I want to bring to your attention as well, but we’ll tackle that one later…). So while I’m there, my son comes up to me and asks me where the paper is. I told him where it was, then asked why. He told me he was going to draw. I said “Cool!”
Then he dares to do the unthinkable: he asks me to get up and draw with him.
Well, first of all I wasn’t too keen on giving up my “contemplation” time, as that’s essentially a time for me to unwind my brain and give it a rest. And second, I’m not particularly great at drawing (Yeah, that’s why I had Sanjana do that great artwork on my blog site; that sure isn’t my work you’re looking at, and you don’t wanna see mine either!). But, being the good dad that I try to be (note that I said “try to be,” I don’t always succeed; just ask Mrs. J. Dean), I got up and started doodling with him. We did little things here and there. He tried his hand at some comic strip characters. I did one character I had contemplated developing for a comic strip (Don’t worry, that’s well out of my system now), then a couple of other things here and there: some other characters, a pitiful rendition of the Silver Surfer, the Starship Enterprise, and another starship of my own design. At best, I can manage modest drawings that are recognizable, so long as you squint your eyes and strain really hard.
But then, while doing some more doodling, I came up with something else, something that I might use for one of my future Vein novels. All of a sudden, I went from playful sketching to attempting to put together something more concrete, something that my imagination had taken hold of and was trying to develop. By the time I had finished, I had put down the basics for another item that I now plan on inserting into one of the later Vein novels. And I have my son to thank for egging me into drawing that one particular day 😀
You see, this ties in to my point about the value of a great imagination, and how useful it is. And while I certainly include writing as one of the reasons for needing imagination, by no means is it the only venue through which imagination is invaluable. Nor is it something limited to only the arts. A friend of mine whose wife is employed by the Dow Chemical Corporation noted that the company isn’t too keen on hiring Americans as much. They’ve been looking to other places and people for hiring, and it’s not because Americans aren’t smart. It’s because Americans aren’t creative.
This speaks to a problem that is on the rise in our society, and it is that people are losing creativity. Creativity requires active imaginations and active minds, but the current culture in which we live is geared toward turning us into passive learners and thinkers. If you want an example of this, look at the amount of television and video games that our youth are involved in rather than reading books. The visual media presented through TV is a subtle destroyer of imagination, because the viewer doesn’t have to imagine; the TV does it for you. It supplies the pictures and the people, instead of forcing you to conjure up with your own thoughts images of places and things on your own (a trait of old radio drama shows which, if you are not familiar with, I would encourage you to listen to sometime). As a result, the mind becomes lazy, lethargic. It doesn’t take the time to assemble an image, because the image is already constructed for you.
If you’re a parent with kids, and especially with young kids, let me please encourage you to limit the time with the television and balance it with things that require your child to imagine. Send them outside. Give them a book. Find things that require them to think, and think creatively. Check out the Classic Radio Dramas and introduce yourself and your children to them. Technology and media are great things and can be wonderful tools, but like anything else they can become harmful if they overdominate a person’s time and attention span.
So make your kids become creative. Believe me, you’ll be thankful that they are. And later on in life so will they
See you in the Vein!