T is for Too Much Imagination

Imagination is great. It’s my best friend, my escape route. It’s saved me on more than one occasion; from boring car journeys and endless lectures, to school plays and insomnia. The list can go on and on. Every song on my mp3 player is a mini film, starring me; which is good when you’re sat on a plane; not so good when you arrive at work and can’t remember how you got there or where you parked the car.

Imagination gets a bad press, it is dismissed as ‘daydreaming’ and ‘not concentrating’. At school a teacher once told me that I had too much imagination, it was said in a way that made it clear that this is not a good thing. I’m not sure how you measure imagination though. Is it done with little probes in your ears that make a sound like a Geiger counter?

Imagination is important, it helps us to develop empathy and theory of mind. If we can’t imagine how we might feel in someone else’s position, how are we to help and understand them? We should be encouraging it, in whatever form it takes. As someone who’s worked with children a lot I’ve often been surprised at how much they’ve struggled with the idea of just writing a story, but then if I compare my childhood with that of a child today, there’s a huge difference. I had to make games up, there was no alternative, but children today have more television programmes and computer games to do the imagining for them.

They don’t have to imagine a certain scenario, it’s all there, they just have to point a controller and click. They also don’t get as much freedom to play outside as people my age used to. As children we used to go off for the day, just playing in a field near my house, we’d make up games between us. There was an old, empty house that we used to walk past on the way home from school, we’d climb through the bushes surrounding it and dare each other to go inside. We made up stories about who had lived there and each and every one of us swore that we saw the ghost of an old man in there, who was probably just a tramp sleeping rough. Or a shadow. It didn’t really matter. Imagination is contagious and once it’s got you there’s no escape.

So I’ve ended up perfectly happy with my diagnosis of too much imagination. It might mean that I often scare myself just walking down the corridor to the bathroom in the middle of the night (which is a minefield. If the ‘thing’ under the bed hasn’t got you then the burglar hiding on the stairs will). But it also helps me to work out how other people tick. I might even mention that in my next imaginary Oscar acceptance speech.



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12 responses to “T is for Too Much Imagination

  1. Viv

    Oh boy. Yes. Imagination is essential yet it’s so underrated, especially by schools these days. I tutor a 9 year old who seems to struggle massively with imagining things. I’m there to try and boost his spelling and grammar but it’s his imagination that seems stunted at times.
    Your childhood sounds a lot like mine. I pity children these days. Their childhood doesn’t prepare them for life, really, or even long car journeys.

    • It’s hard because even if you want your children to go out and have freedom, lots of other people don’t, so they don’t get that big gang of kids feeling.

  2. Ah childhood memories. We used to play in the graveyard at the end of the lane, rob the orchards, fish for tadpoles and pinkeens and collect blackberries and cowslips for my mam. I didn’t live in the country. I lived in a southside Dublin suburb. Kids these days don’t seem to play out as much as we did. I dont think they know what an imagination is.

  3. And this is why I live in the wilds of Brazil. My ten year old is having the same childhood we all had, that doesn’t seem to happen in UK or US anymore, sadly. As always, excellent, thanks.
    maggie at expat brazil

  4. Colin

    We live in an old farmhouse, so there’s plenty of outdoors for our kids to explore. They all have very healthy imaginations. Just ask their imaginary friends, or listen to the games they play with each other. 🙂

    An often neglected aspect of imagination is the fact that without it, many of the major innovations in the world would never have happened. Inventors, as much as writers, rely upon thinking of “what if…?” scenarios. What if electricity could be harnessed in a bowl of glass to provide light? What if music could be reduced to 0s and 1s which could then be interpreted and replayed by a computer (and here I must say: that thought crossed my mind one day when I was loading a program from cassette tape onto our family computer in the early 80s, before I had heard of the CD)? And I’m sure there are many other inventions I could name that, when you think about it, took a leap of imagination to even consider. Putting two apparently unrelated thoughts together to make a new idea–this is the essence of many story ideas, and, I think, the essence of genius.

    • Yes, I hadn’t thought about that aspect. It’s part of what makes us human. I think all children have the capacity, it’s up to us to give them the opportunity to develop that, to leave them be to make their own games.

  5. Can we please share a table Tracy at the Oscars’ award ceremony? …. we are invited aren’t we!… or is it just my imagination!

    A smashing post. Love what have to say and how you say it!
    Liz xx

  6. Imagination is gold. If it’s diagnosed as a malady by teachers and the like, I’m gravely ill — and that’s alright with me. I refuse to be treated.
    Great post. I throughly enjoyed the read.

  7. I get lost in my imagination frequently too!

    I’m not sure that the problem with kids imagination today can be blamed on TV though. My daughter has watched plenty, and it only seems to serve to fuel her imagination! I’d instead look at society’s tendency to look for a ‘right’ answer, even to things like writing a story. Everything has a right and wrong way, and I think kids are afraid to try for fear of getting it wrong!

    Rinelle Grey

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