Sunday, March 4, 2012

Writing and the imagination

Short note: Agreed but you have to gain knowledge to grow an excess of imagination. First things first.

Writers often joke about their imagination, saying it is like hearing voices, having imaginary friends or (in extreme cases of hyperbole) they say they must be a touch schizophrenic. This isn't the case at all as you can see from the medical definitions below. The jokes are just jokes and hyperbole, hyperbole.

Hearing voices
Auditory hallucinations are "Illusory auditory perception of strange nonverbal sounds. Illusory perception; a common symptom of severe mental disorder."

Imaginary friends
"Imaginary friends and imaginary companions are a psychological and social phenomenon where a friendship or other interpersonal relationship takes place in the imagination rather than external physical reality. Imaginary friends are fictional characters created for improvisational role-playing. They often have elaborate personalities and behaviors. They seem real but are ultimately unreal to their creators, as shown by studies.
Imaginary friends are made often in childhood, sometimes in adolescence, and rarely in adulthood. They often function as tutelaries when played with by a child. They reveal, according to several theories of psychology, a child's anxieties, fears, goals and perceptions of the world through that child's conversations. They are, according to some children, physically indistinguishable from real people, while others say they see their imaginary friends only in their heads."

"Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder (or a group of disorders) marked by severely impaired thinking, emotions, and behaviours. Schizophrenic patients are typically unable to filter sensory stimuli and may have enhanced perceptions of sounds, colours, and other features of their environment. Most schizophrenics, if untreated, gradually withdraw from interactions with other people, and lose their ability to take care of personal needs and grooming."

All jokes aside, I do find cause to be interested in the level and type of imagination of anyone in the arts. Painting, sculpture, drawing, sewing, design, architecture, writing, choreography, fashion etc etc demand a level of imagination above what is required in your average office job. That is not to say imagination isn't required in most jobs, just that the level is different. I have experienced the deep seated boredom that comes from try to curb the imagination for routine and cannot conceive on anyone who simply has to follow their imagination being happy in such positions. Imagining potential results from a certain action but not imagining anything further is tedious and limited. Not day dreaming freely is impossible. Not day dreaming in brilliant colour, complexity and high emotion is like eating dry biscuits without topping or a drink. Blah.

So what do you call this excess of imagination and artfulness? What is it to create imaginary worlds and delve into them so much that returning to reality is a shock? What does it mean when a person without obvious mental disorders of any sort can easily joke that they do simply because of an excess of imagination?

So here is a start.

"Etymology: L, imaginare, picture to oneself
1 the ability to form, or the act or process of forming, mental images or conscious concepts of things that are not immediately available to the senses.
2 (in psychology) the ability to reproduce images or ideas stored in the memory by the stimulation or suggestion of associated ideas or to regroup former ideas and concepts to form new images and ideas concerned with a particular goal or problem. See also fantasy."

"1. Of or relating to art or artists: the artistic community.
2. Sensitive to or appreciative of art or beauty: an artistic temperament.
3. Showing imagination and skill: an artistic design."

"tr.v. cre·at·edcre·at·ingcre·ates
1. To cause to exist; bring into being. See Synonyms at found1.
2. To give rise to; produce: That remark created a stir.
3. To invest with an office or title; appoint.
4. To produce through artistic or imaginative effort: create a poem; create a role."

"1. a. The manner of thinking, behaving, or reacting characteristic of a specific person: a nervous temperament. See Synonyms at disposition.
b. The distinguishing mental and physical characteristics of a human according to medieval physiology, resulting from dominance of one of the four humors.
2. Excessive irritability or sensitiveness: an actor with too much temperament.
3. Music Equal temperament."

"1. One's usual mood; temperament: a sweet disposition.
2. a. A habitual inclination; a tendency: a disposition to disagree.
b. A physical property or tendency: a swelling with a disposition to rupture.
3. Arrangement, positioning, or distribution: a cheerful disposition of colours and textures; a convoy oriented into a north-south disposition.
4. A final settlement: disposition of the deceased's property.
5. An act of disposing; a bestowal or transfer to another.
6. a. The power or liberty to control, direct, or dispose.
b. Management; control."

None of these really shed light on why such levels of imagination vary but they do highlight that there isn't any particular link to mental disorders in just having an excessive imagination.

So is it linked to intelligence? I have to ask as many would claim this to be so. Personally, although both are connected I don't think that imagination is limited to the arts alone or that it is the only aspect of the mind that indicates a person has high intelligence. Still, I must cover this too.

"1. a. The capacity to acquire and apply knowledge.
b. The faculty of thought and reason.
c. Superior powers of mind. See Synonyms at mind.
2. An intelligent, incorporeal being, especially an angel.
3. Information; news. See Synonyms at news.
4. a. Secret information, especially about an actual or potential enemy.
b. An agency, staff, or office employed in gathering such information.
c. Espionage agents, organisations, and activities considered as a group: "Intelligence is nothing if not an institutionalised black market in perishable commodities" (John le CarrĂ©).""

As instructed, here is the mind definition

'1. The human consciousness that originates in the brain and is manifested especially in thought, perception, emotion, will, memory, and imagination.
2. The collective conscious and unconscious processes in a sentient organism that direct and influence mental and physical behaviour.
3. The principle of intelligence; the spirit of consciousness regarded as an aspect of reality.
4. The faculty of thinking, reasoning, and applying knowledge: Follow your mind, not your heart.
5. A person of great mental ability: the great minds of the century.
6. a. Individual consciousness, memory, or recollection: I'll bear the problem in mind.
b. A person or group that embodies certain mental qualities: the medical mind; the public mind.
c. The thought processes characteristic of a person or group; psychological makeup: the criminal mind.
7. Opinion or sentiment: He changed his mind when he heard all the facts.
8. Desire or inclination: She had a mind to spend her vacation in the desert.
9. Focus of thought; attention: I can't keep my mind on work.
10. A healthy mental state; sanity: losing one's mind."

Intelligence and the mind are defined without restrictions to excessive imagination but there is cause to link the two. To be imaginative you need a certain level of thought, perception, emotion, will, memory and imagination along with consciousness of your consciousness, reflectiveness, thinking, reasoning and application of knowledge. You can be imaginative in maths or any of the sciences as well as imaginative in writing or any of the other arts. To excel in any field requiring imagination to create and reform ideas of any sort requires an excess of imagination.

And still there is no answer, just a validation of why the imaginative choose the jobs they are often in.

Why is there ever an excess of imagination?
This likely comes down to evolution.

1. A gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form. See Synonyms at development.
2. a. The process of developing.
b. Gradual development.
3. Biology a. Change in the genetic composition of a population during successive generations, as a result of natural selection acting on the genetic variation among individuals, and resulting in the development of new species.
b. The historical development of a related group of organisms; phylogeny.
4. A movement that is part of a set of ordered movements.
5. Mathematics The extraction of a root of a quantity.

Very, very simply put:
We are creatures without deadly defences, a specific food source or any sort of instinctual hunting strategies. We are soft creatures who survive because we are adapted to constant adaption of our behaviour to our environment (so much so we often adapt the environment to our behaviour). To constantly adapt behaviour means to constantly think of new ways of doing things and then enacting them, some to fail and some to succeed. To fail to imagine a new way of doing things could lead a person to meet with death. The losses pare away some of the imaginative along with the unimaginative but not all. Sometimes the unimaginative restrict the imaginative leading to losses happening all round.

Build on that over thousands of years and imagination becomes a dominant trait, leaving most of us with some predisposition towards making up stuff on the fly. For those that don't, well, we are a pack animal remember. Within our close circles we love and care for our fellows and within the wide community we condemn acts of violence (not to say we don't often act violently, just that the vast majority of us try hard to suppress it and make sure we don't kill anyone, thus becoming natural selectors in evolution). There isn't much of a problem with not being imaginative at all (a rare condition indeed) as long as you are loved and are careful.

So imagination, intelligence, survival and evolution are all linked to various degrees to someone sitting down at a computer or scribbling on a pad of paper in the process of creating and recording fictitious worlds, characters and societies, which doesn't seem to benefit anyone much until you realise that this is one of the main ways ideas are transferred and recorded (no matter if the idea is couched in fiction or non-fiction). We could keep living without excessive imagination but I doubt we'd develop as nicely (evolve is too linked to progress and progress is too linked to betterment and that isn't always the case with imagination now is it). Excessive imagination allows us to develop and build/alter/pare away methods much quicker and is the reason behind why society is moving oh so very fast nowadays.

No comments:

Post a Comment