Great art always begins with great imagination, or vision. As creatives, we are always looking for inspiration, for that next idea. Sometimes that idea will tumble into our lives by accident. Sometimes an intuition will guide us on a creative adventure. Sometimes we might even call upon a deity or muse to bring us divine inspiration.
Sometimes it is because we as artists have trained ourselves in new ways of looking at life, at what my old English teacher Mr Hoare calked “making the ordinary extraordinary”.
The painter and poet William Blake was a great visionary. Often his art would be inspired by a heavenly vision, and he would call for his paints immediately. His view of the world was certainly extraordinary. When William Blake looked at the sun he did not see a yellow disc, emitting light. He saw a bright star, surrounded by hosts of angels, singing “Holy, holy, holy.”
Using the imagination does not just help with creative productivity. It can aid us in personal growth and transformation.
A young student of mine, Joe, had great ability but struggled in timed tests. He felt pressured by his awareness of the time limit, and this gave him a tendency to hold his breath and become tense. This impeded his ability to answer questions correctly and easily. We worked on this every week. I would give Joe a five-minute test and listen carefully to see if he was breathing. When he stopped, I gently reminded him to breathe.
One day, about halfway through his test, I noticed something change. Suddenly Joe ‘got it’, and started to both relax and speed up his answering. At the end I asked him what had happened. He said that all of a sudden he had started to pretend that he wasn’t being timed. His new idea of suddenly having all the time in the world altered his perception and his behaviour. His imagination had unlocked his potential.
Remember how powerful the imagination is, and how it can not only inspire us, and benefit us personally, but also improve our results.