An author I was on a panel with recently called me out at both the panel and in a recent blog post for a comment I made about the imagination. This author basically feels that imagination is limited by our vocabulary/words.
I am responding to this because 1) I understand where this author is coming from, but I completely disagree and 2) my comment was taken out of context
When I was 14…I came up with this motto (or thought I did at the time, lol)–there’s no limit to the imagination.
What did I mean by this?
Well, I came from a troubled home. I felt trapped. Like there was no way out and nowhere to go. So one day (I remember this like it was yesterday) I was writing in my notebook and “there’s no limit to the imagination” came out. I discovered a way to cope. Somewhere to put all the rage inside of me. A world I had control over for once. A place I actually felt SAFE and free to be myself without getting my ass beat. Without being ridiculed. Without people telling me I wasn’t good enough or smart enough or beautiful enough…or whatever enough. Without limitations from the external world. Anything was possible.
I truly believed there was no limit to MY imagination. I believed that I could be more. That I was capable of MORE. And you know what? My belief in this as a teen saved me in many ways. It got me through some of the hardest years of my life. It helped me become the writer I am today, and it will continue to help me grow as a writer. And I’m far from alone there.
You want to reduce that to “Disneyspeak”? Go ahead. You want to use big words and mathematical calculations to prove a limitless imagination is bullshit? Awesome! I suck at math, so have at it. You want to tell kids that their imaginations are limited by their vocabulary? Fine. Be a buzzkill.
But perhaps you aren’t considering the psychological value here. Even if our imagination was limited by words (and I don’t believe this), I’m not seeing the harm in encouraging kids to strive for more. To channel their feelings into something productive, even if it seems impossible. Who is anyone to say what anyone else is capable of? I’ve seen autistic people on the severe end of the spectrum accomplish things doctors with fancy degrees never thought possible.
And then there’s my cat. He dreams on a regular basis. Don’t believe your pets dream? Here’s a fun article: http://www.usatoday.com/life/lifestyle/pets/2010-06-29-dogs-cats-dream_N.htm Do I think my cat capable of having an imagination? I do. I don’t believe it’s actually been proven that our pets don’t have imaginations. If so, please do link me to the study. Needless to say, my cat DOES speak to me, but he’s sure as hell not using words. He communicates through sound, pitch, gestures, etc.
When I am writing music, melodies come to me first. I play entirely by ear. I cannot read music AT ALL. If you describe a certain key, I won’t know what you’re talking about until I hear it. Melodies just come to me, much like my characters do. Melodies are not words. They don’t have a color or a shape. How do you even describe what it sounds like accurately to people who don’t read music or aren’t familiar with keys/notes? Sure, you can be metaphoric. I’ve done it. Can you literally describe what a melody looks, tastes, sounds, and smells like? I’m stumped… So how does a melody in my head equate to words? I’m not understanding that concept. At all.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.