5 Ways to Jump-start Your Imagination

Monday we talked about the power of imagination. If it’s been a while since you’ve given your imagination free reign, you may find it hard to get started. Today I have 5 ways to get that rusty imagination going. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I am in no way the authority on imagination. These are just techniques that help me stay out of a rut. If you have more ideas, add them in the comments – we all work in different ways and I’d love to pick up some new tricks from you guys.

1. Look at something old in a new way

Image from here.

There was a bush in my parent’s backyard growing up that I loved. It was just a normal bush, its base visible with leaves starting partway up and branching out. Nothing too special about this bush when you see it as just a bush. But! I found that if you laid down on the ground to get level with it, and stared at it for a while, pretending that it was a giant tree instead of a bush – voila! Suddenly I was in the wild deserts of Africa, a lone tree reaching out to shadow the land, animals seeking its shelter. That little bush provided a starting point for all kinds of stories in my head, all because I looked at it in a new way.

2. Try something different 

There’s nothing better to expand your mind than trying something you’ve never done before. It gives the brain a whole new platform to work from. Get out of doing the same old thing, day in and day out . Break your routine with something different – it gives your brain an opportunity to break its routine and do something different. It doesn’t have to be anything big – something as small as brushing your teeth in a different order (betcha didn’t realize you do it exactly the same way, everytime!), or making a new recipe, or trying a new type of exercise. All these things get your brain wondering, thinking of the why’s behind the actions, and expanding what it has to work with.

3. Change your persepctive

You’ve all seen that scene in the movie Dead Poet’s Society, right? The one where Robin Williams has all his students stand on their desks to look at the classroom in a whole new way? Try that! Literally! Get yourself to a place where you can see it all from a new perspective  – this goes right along with #1, just less figuratively. You’d be surprised at the things you’ve never noticed before because you’ve been looking at it from the wrong angle. For instance, I completely missed one of the cupboards that we have in our kitchen. Our cupboards are all filled to the brim and yet, even then, I didn’t realize we had one cupboard that was  completely empty.  We’ve never used it. It wasn’t until Terry was crouched down, spraying for ants in our pantry (they really like the coconut flakes we have in there) that he noticed – hey, there’s another cupboard right here! And you guys, this is not a hidden cupboard. It’s right next to the dishwasher, k? The point is, how much do we miss because we’ve never been in the right place to see it?

4. Kill your brain

I don’t mean that one literally, of course. That would also kill your imagination. And, um, you. I mean silence that part of your brain that tells you that’s not a good idea, or that it has to be perfect and if it’s not then you shouldn’t even try. When those thoughts come into your head, shoot them down! Talk to yourself if you have to. Say, “Self, I know you’re just trying to help. But right now we’re letting Imagination have its turn. You can have a turn later when I’m trying to decide what time I should have lunch.” Don’t let those negative thoughts take root – they are the weeds that will strangle the fruit of your imagination.

5. Move your body

The Runner.
The Runner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I’m stuck in my writing, my favorite thing to do is get the mail. I have to walk down three flights of stairs, across the apartment complex, and back in order to check the mailbox – which is oftentimes empty. It’s not actually the mail that gets me un-stuck, it’s the motion. Something about moving your body gets your mind moving too. You’ll be amazed at what can come to you when you’re out for a run, or vacuuming the house, or when you’re playing frisbee on the beach. Moving your body gives your mind permission to move as well.

What tricks do you guys use to get your imagination going? How do you exercise that part of yourself?

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  1. Well that was some very good food for thought! I think creativity and imagination is so important for everyday life. We tend to think that only authors and artists need it, but in thinking about your suggestions it made me realize there are things I do to help me solve problems in my research, and they qualify as creativity and imagination. All kinds of problem-solving benefits from looking at things in a new way or clearing our minds of clutter. It is easy just to fill our minds with stuff that is “input” from other sources all day long, instead of shutting off the input from various screens and devices and allowing our minds to come up with its own content. Thanks for the interesting ideas!

    1. I think that’s a great point about shutting off the input – sometimes we need to let our brain do the work, instead of letting the TV do it for us! And I think you’re right – more than just creative people need imagination. How else do you come up with “creative solutions” in everyday problems if not by using your imagination? I bet people use their imagination more than they think they do.

  2. Nice list! Especially the silence part–AGREE. Sometimes (especially when it’s one of THOSE days, when the words just don’t flow) I get distracted by that voice telling me that this isn’t a good idea, I’m not writing right, my voice is off, etc. Sometimes I start to look back over what I’ve written and critque it. ZING. Bad idea. Instant distraction when I should be writing my pants off in full-speed-ahead first draft mode. I’m trying to get better at just rolling with it. I like the idea that it’s not the enemy, though. It’s just a different part of your brain that’s totally not helpful at that point.

    1. Yeah, that’s exactly it! I once started looking back over my first draft when I was in the middle of it and I just had to make myself stop because it totally killed my confidence and rhythm. What is it you’re writing?

      1. Haha, yeah, it’s just such a bad idea to look back like that sometimes! Honestly, what I’m working on now is more along the lines of a ‘practice novel’ (that somehow sounds absurd)–more writing it to remind myself that I can do it than with any particular publication goals in mind. So far I’ve got a shy protagonist about to participate in a dystopian American Idol-esque event because she’s trying to escape factory life. Not sure where it’ll go but it’s fun to write, so I’ll take dat, haha.

        1. That’s actually how this novel I’m working on started out for me – I wanted it to be purely for fun. But I’ve had so much fun with that I’ve really come to believe in it. Is belief enough to get it published?! Ha! We’ll see I guess. Sounds like you’ve got a fun story going on, though! I’m all about the dystopian these days, cuz really, who isn’t?


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