A lot of people, mostly non-creatives, can’t understand what I mean when I say this about imagination—but, seriously, imagination sucks. But it’s also great and makes you who you are. Because of imagination I can never be alone. I constantly have characters I can call on to be there for me and help me to understand the world and even empathise with the people around me. It can create entire worlds and bridges between them so I can constantly escape from reality and play in a land without limits. I can be anything I want to be. The people I love can be anything I imagine… and all that’s great. I’ve had, even other creatives, look at me with envy for the amount I can imagine in any given time.
Did I just come up with a title I really loved and decided, well, might as well write the blog post to go with it? Maybe… But, in all fairness, it has been an idea circling around my head for a while now. This is really from my point of view and about my own personal battle/relationship with writing but if you find yourself nodding along and seeing this in yourself, then great. I hope it makes you feel like you’re not alone—which sometimes is all you need.
All this makes me, well, me. It’s what makes, not necessarily what makes me unique as there are other people similar to me, but it makes me who I am. I have been in constant contact with my imagination and all it can do for my entire life. It’s not just part of who I am—it is who I am—and my lowest moments are when I lose control of it and can’t reach the places I always used to think of.
As I said, I’ve met a lot of people who envy this skill. Apparently for some people it’s not as easy to do this (a bizarre concept to me as it often happens to me without any effort on my part). What those people don’t realise is you should never envy me that skill—because life with so much creativity is the greatest gift with a horrible side-effect. When you can imagine every small thing, entire worlds full of people without any effort—well, it makes every other bit of imagination effortless and seemingly out of your control as well.
Just as easily as my imagination can show me many other worlds, it can also precisely show me how the real one could end, down to the smallest detail. Any small detail from the constant News Cycle can spark an entire horrible adventure into the minds of everyone that went through the event (from the victims, to the perpetrators, to the witnesses and beyond). It forces me to live the experience I’ve maybe even only read a sentence of. A headline like ‘School Bus Burns On Bridge’, without reading anymore, causes me stress for days on end as my brain shows me all of what may have happened and all people could have felt. I live these experiences with those people—and whilst going through this, and after, I have to carry on living pretending that trauma isn’t there.
Now, I’m not saying I go through worse than what the real people in those stories did. Far from it. I’m still here. I’m still living my normal life, unharmed—but I’m breaking inside as if I did go through it. And the saddest thing about it is nobody on the outside would know or understand all the trauma that’s happening in my head.
To give an actual example of the curse of having such a strong, controlling imagination I take you back to when I was five or six years old. My parents were watching the news and a bombing showed up on the news. For years I vividly remembered the news story. I remembered the images of people screaming inside a train carriage and blood spattered down walls whilst the next train carriage watched in horror and fear. Only… I found out many years later that I didn’t see that. Those images were never shown on the News, because they hadn’t been captured on film. Somebody had clearly described what they’d experienced on camera and my young imagination had turned those words into a real clip that the News had shown—a real, horrific visual image that haunted me from then until today. This had moved from imagination to memory because that’s what my imagination does. It turns stories into reality and memory.
As I’ve got older it’s become easier to say that, no, this is not what I saw. This is my imagination trying to help me understand a situation—but I still get the same physical reaction. It’s still like going through a trauma that’s going to haunt me from then on.
I’m not shy about the fact I suffer from an Anxiety Disorder (like so many people post-Covid, I feel) but I can say with almost entire certainty that it is a symptom of being filled with imagination. It’s the Curse inside the Box with a Bow. It creates the most amazing places and people, helps me understand the world I live in and also breaks me down emotionally until all that’s left is a meat-pile with self-inflicted trauma.
And, do you know what’s the sad thing? I wouldn’t change it. As much as I hate the curse, I know how much of a gift it is that I can do the things that I can. I understand how much good I could do with the mind that I have—how I could help others to escape reality, to understand and empathise with other people, how I could help people find joy in sometimes quite a miserable world. This isn’t an ego. I know I’m not the best writer in the world (I’m constantly learning how to improve with every word I read and write). I know that there’s going to be some people that will never understand what I’m trying to say or give to them—and, if my imagination lets me, I’ll have to accept that. But my imagination is a gift. It just came with a heck-of an add-on-subscription.
Finding the right balance between these two sides of my gift/curse is where the trouble lays. How do I make sure that the self-inflicted trauma doesn’t overtake me and stop me from using the gift? And how do I allow the trauma to help guide me towards understanding what I’m writing and understand other people’s experience so that my writing can be the best it can be? Currently, the trauma-side has been taking control—and even the positive side giving me ideas for stories, worlds and characters is causing problems by not allowing me to sleep at night without going crazy with the sheer volume of fresh ideas. So, instead of fighting it, I’ve decided to try and run with it. Go with the flow (the complete opposite of what I’ve been taught growing up). I’m going to let the wave come up and when I get that motivation to use the gift, go and use it before the curse shows it’s head again. And if the curse side leaves me feeling low or stressed I’m going to ride through that too until it switches again. Honestly, this may or may not work—but I’ve tried forcing myself to be something I’m seemingly not—so instead, let’s be kind to myself (and you to yourself if you recognize yourself in these words) and go with the waves rather than fight against them. Be the ship on the ocean and go with the water rather than fight it and end up drowning.
I hope you enjoyed this quick insight into my mind, all coming up from the inspiration of a title. If you see yourself in these words—well, first off, I’m sorry, I know what it’s like to go through it—but also, hi. There’s more of us than you may think. We’ll ride these waves together.
Thank you for reading and I hope you’re enjoying yourself wherever in the world you are. Happy creating.
The Literary Onion
P.S. For all those who’ve been through actual trauma, rather than self-inflicted, I hope you’re doing better and taking care of yourself. I can only imagine (and have) what you’ve been through and I wish you all the best. If you need help, please find it. Trauma or not, every person is as important as the other—you are important and more than what you’ve been through. I hope this message comes across as inspirational and not preachy—I know there’s a fine line between them. Sorry, I’ll stop rambling now… Thank you for reading.