The Writer's Imagination

Image courtesy of Gerd Altmann at
Do all writers use their imagination the same way? The short answer is no.

Each writer approaches the creative process in individualized ways specific to his or her own nature.

Why am I asking this question?

My first novel, The Watchers of Moniah, is tentatively scheduled for a December publication with the second book releasing four to six weeks after that. The goal is to have book three in the editing process before book one gets published, so it can follow book two in a short span of time. I'm writing like crazy on book three.

My writing critique group has seen the first chapters. Half of the group knows the story and characters, but it's been a while since they've seen the first two books. The other half have never seen this story. 

It's intriguing to hear the feedback from my critique group since we're a diverse genre group. One mystery writer expressed amazement at my imagination and ability to create such a fully developed world. I read the works of the other members--representing a broad spectrum of genres--and marvel at their skill and imagination.

Concepts are easy to come up with. Ask a random person on the street, and they have an idea for a book. Writing that concept in an engaging way takes incredible imagination and hard work. Yes. Creating is hard work.

Which brings me back to my question: Do writers use their imagination the same way?

The answer to that question is not so simple.

I know plotters and pantsers. You might be surprised who outlines their books first and who writes by the seat of their pants.

Some authors live for research and spend hours digging into data prior to writing. Other writers do the research when necessary but prefer focusing on their character's story.

I've met writers who spend weeks, even months, creating a full history of their characters before they start to write the first sentence. Other writers figure out the history in small pieces, adding to it as they go.

Many ponder an idea while doing something unrelated. I do this, sometimes. I've, also, had an idea come to me fully formed, usually in the first waking hours of the day. This happens to me more times than I can tell you. 

Most writers never leave their stories when they put down the pen or walk away from the computer. The characters and their world become an extension of their life.

Where does my creative process take me?

My imagination is hard to explain. It's there. It takes me where it wants to. I can't touch it, but it exists all the same. If you're blessed with an active imagination, you know what I mean.

If you don't have an active imagination, then you've probably seen someone in the grip of their own imagination. In the middle of a discussion, they might stop and stare off into space, totally losing the line of discussion. They might grab a scrap of paper or napkin and jot something down before they forget it or even use a voice recorder app on their smartphone. Their imagination just took over. An excited writer might even blurt the idea out. Most of the times, we don't because in our past, someone convinced us to keep the "crazy" random thoughts to ourselves.

Creative imagination can't be defined.

It can't be boxed in. It's the epitome of outside the box.

Even writing this blog, my imagination takes off where I don't expect it sometimes. It did today. When I started to write today's post, I planned to focus on my writing critique group and their responses to the work on my third book. Instead, I hit a point when I wanted to follow the question of whether my imagination is any different from the mystery writers in the group. It probably is. And it probably isn't. Odds are we use some of the same methods, but what we create differs greatly. 

That's how creativity works. It happens. For some of us, entire worlds meander into our brains without our looking for it. For others, we go in search of it. Still, other people seek out an idea and dig to find a way to create around it. I believe most writers use all of these. The differences arise from how we apply these approaches and when.

Each writer is blessed with something that prompts a thought or idea. This is the writer's imagination at work, and we each claim our own path.

How would you describe your writer's imagination?

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Phil Arnold said…
You said, "my imagination takes off where I don't expect it sometimes."

Same for me. Great post.
Thanks Phil. It was entirely different from my original plan. I was worried it wouldn’t work!

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