Recently, Clifford the Big Red Dog made an appearance at an event at my kid’s preschool. Santa Claus was the headliner, but Clifford was a pretty good opening act, as far as my three-year-old was concerned. We watch his show on TV. We frequently read his books. This was going to be cool.
My boy marched right up to Clifford, looked him in the eye and said, “I see you.” That’s right, he was not at all fooled. At the right angle, you could actually see the person inside the suit, literally, through Clifford’s eyes. My son was just at the right angle, and he proudly proclaimed his discovery.
But here’s the thing…
After we went down the hall and chatted with Santa – a way more hushed and reverent affair – my son still wanted to go back and give Clifford a hug. Not a dude in a Clifford suit. The Clifford. The Big Red Dog. My boy’s mind had no trouble with the world existing in two realities; one where there’s a dude dressed up like a giant dog waving at people and another where a ginormous red beast is wandering the halls of his school. There was no cognitive dissonance there. For him, that’s just how it is. The imaginary world seamlessly complements the plain old real world and vice versa.
That’s how we writers should be. You imagination isn’t something to be brought out only when you sit down at the computer to write a story. Imagination is something you should live with all the time. It should be a part of everything you do, everywhere you go. Be aware of the reality of the situation, but don’t be bound by it. Embrace the unreality too. The reality today might be you have to go the grocery store, then the bank, then the post office. But what’s wrong with imagining you’re getting there via stardust-powered locomotive? You can look at your kid’s crayon doodles and inventory the colors used – red, purple, green, etc. – and the number of times they went “outside the lines.” But why not take a moment to just look at that same picture with your kid’s eyes. What were they thinking in the moment they picked up that crayon?
Reality and Imagination. The best of both worlds. These worlds don’t collide, not if you do it right. Rather, they intersect, intertwine, interface. Whatever “inter” your into, they’ll do it. If only you let them. You’ll grow as a person. As a being. As a writer.
Or go crazy. Dunno. But it’ll be a swell ride.
Live in one world, play in the other. Which is which is up to you.