I had this imaginary friend growing up. Actually, she was more than just my imaginary friend, she was my imaginary twin sister. Her name was Janine, and we had a grand old time together until about the 4th grade when it began to dawn on me that playing with an imaginary sister was probably not the most socially acceptable form of free play.
Still, there were occasions for another year or so when I’d revisit my memories of time spent with Janine. I vividly remember that letting her go was a difficult thing for me to do, but the maturing part of my brain new it was a necessary task.
The funny thing about imagination is that it feels so very real, yet we know without a doubt that the created world inside our heads is false. For children, imaginative play is key to development, with some children exhibiting much better ability at tapping into their inner creativity than others.
For adults, imagination can often lend itself to fear. We know too much about the heartaches of this world, and that knowledge works against us.
There is something quite magical that happens, however, when an adult is able to tap into the healthy places of her imagination. This is where art is created – where stories take shape, paintings bloom on blank canvas, culinary masterpieces are placed on the table, and empty walls are filled with design.
Creativity is birthed in imagination, if we allow ourselves the space to let our minds soar.
Here are three easy steps to tapping into your imagination:
1.) Sit and think.
How often do we sit still as adults? Do we ever allow our minds the space to breathe and expand? For the busy mother, caught in the throes of parenting, sitting in silence is likely an unknown luxury. We hit the ground running from sun up to sun down, and at the end of the day, when given a few precious evening moments, often the television draws us in as the perfect zone out.
But what would happen if you gave yourself five or ten, or even more, minutes a day to just sit in the quiet? To think? To day dream? To imagine? What could you create in that quiet space? Perhaps nothing. Perhaps it would do no more than simply leave you refreshed, allowing you to create at a later time.
But maybe you would find that a whole wealth of ideas lay dormant in your muddled brain. If you’re a creative at heart, I guarantee those ideas are there. They’re just waiting to be discovered.
2.) Get your hands dirty.
There’s something about digging in and working that tends to wake up a dormant brain. While most mothers work themselves to the bone every day preparing meals, washing clothes, cleaning the house, and tending to the 642 needs that seem to arise every hour, we don’t often get away and work on something for the sheer pleasure of working on it.
We don’t let work be a time to engage our brains. Instead, we shut our minds down , laying all thought on the altar of the next necessary task.
Creatively freeing work will look different for everyone. For some, it’s the act of exercising. For others, it’s getting out in the yard and pulling weeds. Some simply need to do the creative work they love to do, while others find that their souls breathe when they’re scrubbing a bathtub.
Figure out what type of work engages the creative side of your brain and make a plan to do it as frequently as you possibly can.
3.) Laugh more.
According to WebMD, some researchers believe that laughter is one of the best, natural medicines.
“We change physiologically when we laugh. We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues.
People who believe in the benefits of laughter say it can be like a mild workout — and may offer some of the same advantages as a workout.
One pioneer in laughter research, William Fry, claimed it took ten minutes on a rowing machine for his heart rate to reach the level it would after just one minute of hearty laughter.” From Give Your Body a Boost – WebMD
While laughter is not guaranteed to make you more creative, it is almost certain to lift your spirit, giving you energy, excitement, and the added benefit of joy that often births a creative splurge.
Look for the humor in every day life, and when you see it go ahead and laugh out loud. Just driving down the road gives plenty of laughable material, from the irony in roadside signs (“Huge Garage Sale” planted firmly in front of 4 worn items) to the goofy things your children say on a day to day basis.
“Hey Mom. When you get married, how long can you kiss your husband? And what do you do if you are kissing and you want to stop. Do you just yell, ‘Stop!’ with your lips pressed on his?”
You don’t have to invent an imaginary twin sister to tap into your imagination. With a little bit of effort, and the willingness to carve out a few moments of your day, you could find that a creative muse lay dormant just below the surface.
You just have to let her breathe.
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The two things that fire up my creativity are 1) emersing myself in a great book, movie or play. Which always always inspires. And 2) surrounding myself with other creatives.
PS – my imaginary friend’s name was (is) Penny. Penny is also my mom’s pet name for me.
I feel a short story coming on “Penny and Janine”. Where Imaginary friends go to play once their literal half grow us.
Adam Sandler would definitely want to be a part of the film adaptation.
Sounds like a best seller to me!
My imaginary friend was a chair. I don’t know if that is because I was an only child or if it’s the reason why.
HAHAHAHA! I have no response to that other than to laugh. Out loud.
That made me LOL! My imaginary friends growing up were: Pincher, Cabinet, Erma and Clarence Lawrence. *nerd alert*
I really would like to know more about your friends. Honestly, if we combined all the imaginary friends from the comments of this post into one story, we could have a series of books like none other. Think Chronicles of Narnia meets Sweet Valley Twins meets…um…a magical chair? Toss in a dystopian world and we could all be millionaires.