Imagination Is The Creative Spark

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The ability to form new images and sensations not perceived through the senses such as sight, hearing and others but existing through the mind is known as imagination. Imagination allows us to come up with something new and somehow valuable that may take a tangible physical substance in the form of an invention for example or an intangible concept such as a poem or a play.

The ability to be creative in the way that humans are when compared to other species on the planet is complex and diverse. It can be attributed to several factors, some of which are intelligence, knowledge, thinking styles, personality, motivation, and environment. Despite the necessity for these factors to intermingle in producing the most creativity of our kind as observed throughout history, it cannot be denied that imagination is the one crucial ingredient- the creative spark that results in marvellous creations, whether these creations are observed in the arts or sciences.

Why You Should Care about Being More Imaginative

Psychological studies have shown that there seems to be a high similarity between imaginative thought of the creative and artist kind and everyday thoughts involved in rational thought. Indeed if we were to sample the memory recall of a common event amongst several individuals, we will find that the event narrative differs as each individual seems to recall the same event slightly differently.

This implies that we all take the same event and put a spin on it by applying our own creative perspective to it. Creative and rational thought seem to be based on the same cognitive processes where the only distinction between the two are the beliefs held by the holder of the thought. The inability to distinguish imaginative thought from rational thought can be seen in children and in more extreme case in some types of mental illness. All this should perhaps suggest that there is a lot of power within the imaginative thought process and that the creative capacity of the mind has an immense impact on our perceptions of what is real.

Taking an analogy form versioning in software development; Software is often developed with incremental additions in a staging area. Once the software developer is satisfied with the latest batch of improvements, they push the latest batch of changes to be committed or added to the main software package and hence become part of it. In the software analogy, the existence of the staging area provides an enclosure or sandbox in which the new changes to software can be observed and seen to perform as desired before being permanently added to the final product.

This approach provides the software developer with the opportunity to easily reverse any changes if they do not meet the standard. In a similar manner, the imagination should be thought of as the staging area of the mind for ideas. It allows us to actively test the viability of an idea before committing to it and adopting it in the real world. It falls to reason therefore that leveraging the imagination should provide us with an opportunity for a trial run of our creative concept and offer them an opportunity to mature before committing to them in the real world.

Wallas’s Models Of Creative Thought

Even if we do not routinely think about it that way, one of the models for creative thought is presented by Graham Walls in Art of Though published in 1926. In this model, which is still in popular use today, Wallas outlined a 5 stage process in the creative process. By identifying these stages, you may be able to refine your imaginative approach:

  1. Preparation. Preparatory work on a problem that focuses the individual's mind on the problem and explores the problem's dimensions,
  2. Incubation. Where the problem is internalized into the unconscious mind and nothing appears externally to be happening,
  3. Intimation. The creative person gets a "feeling" that a solution is on its way,
  4. Illumination or insight. Where the creative idea bursts forth from its preconscious processing into conscious awareness;
  5. Verification. Where the idea is consciously verified, elaborated, and then applied.

Improving Your Imagination and Creativity

Whilst it is true that some individuals are born with a gift for achieving high levels of imagination and creativity, it is also true that these endowments of the mind can also be learned and cultivated. There are certain activities which when undertaken effectively and consistently, develop and reinforce certain neural pathways in the brain that make us better adept at being imaginative and creative.

By trying to open your mind to unexplored paths and not being afraid to try something new you open yourself up to possibilities and increase your creative potential. Trying out new things and overcoming new challenges allows us to come up with new and novel ideas which are oftentimes original.

By being curious we explore new avenues and discover how things work. We then apply our knowledge into other areas in more imaginative and creative ways. Curiosity is a feature that is present in young children which seems to disappear as we get older. Your imagination and creativity should improve significantly if you cultivate your curiosity.

By reading more and telling stories we demonstrate our willingness to learn and adopt new ways of thinking. When we read and tell stories we engage our active imagination through visualization. Visualization is a powerful tool of the mind that materialises what we imagine into real and almost tangible objects in the mind. This is a powerful exercise in imagination.

By expanding your interests and developing your talents you seek activities that you are passionate about. This unleashes your creative spark as you engage in activities that genuinely interest you. By pursuing activities in which we hold a natural talent, we are likely to pursue them with passion and bring in our creative spark.

By changing your view and spending time with creative people, you allow yourself to gain a different perspective and also to learn from others who are creatively inclined. By associating with creative individuals, and sharing ideas with them, you create an atmosphere that enriches the imaginative and creative experiences of all involved.

By learning to relax through meditation, you provide the mind with the opportunity to create from an empty canvas. There are various meditation techniques that have been found to promote calmness and a state of rest that would benefit your imagination and creativity endeavours.

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