This week I watched Avatar (yes, I’m three years behind.) It prompted me to think about imagination. The world of Pandora was so beautiful and filled with intricate details. If only I could imagine a world like that! I’d win a Pulitzer.
I thought back to my childhood. My best friend and I used to spend hours playing make believe. We’d explore our backyards, the creek behind her house, and the woods behind mine. We sewed our own costumes and developed elaborate backstories for our characters. We suffered through war, natural disasters, and scarcity of resources. We adventured into uncharted territory, not knowing what we would find ahead of us.
Avatar brought out my imagination and those playful feelings from my childhood. As I watched, I wished that I, too, could hop in some strange machine, close my eyes, and wake up in Pandora as a totally different species. I wanted a new land to explore.When the movie ended, I cried. I wasn’t crying about the movie; I was mourning my imagination. Avatar brought me back to those days of play, but it wasn’t the same. I’m an adult now–I can’t paint myself blue and run around in the woods acting out a story. Even if I could, would anyone join me? Probably not. Okay, definitely not.
Those feelings of sadness made me realize how much I miss using my imagination. I can’t be the only “grown up” who feels this way. I refuse to accept that idea that it’s too late to bring my imagination back.
Imagination play for adults
After my imagination-mourning session, I was determined to figure out ways to utilize my imagination again and make it stronger than ever. Here’s what I came up with.
Writing is one of the best ways to let your imagination run wild. Fictions writers regularly create whole news worlds and allow their characters to explore them. It may be difficult to create a world from scratch if your imagination is out of practice, though. You can find writing exercises to improve your creativity and imagination abilities by Googling “creative writing exercises” or similar phrases. Don’t write? Try sketching or painting instead.
Video games are great for your imagination! Role-playing games are especially useful because you can explore a large world within the game–you aren’t limited to a tight storyline. If you don’t know where to start, try Skyrim.
Books and movies, like Avatar, excite you and engage your imagination. The only problem is that sad feeling at the end–when the book finishes and the movie is over. Still, books are particularly useful in reviving your imagination because you can fill in most of the details yourself. The Harry Potter of my imagination looked nothing like Daniel Radcliffe. I had created my own characters and my own setting while reading.
Live action role-playing games (LARPs) are something I know nothing about. It seems like a role-playing game acted out in the real world. Sort of like improvisational theater.
Historical reenactments are for you if you’d rather release your imagination in a historical environment instead of a fantasy world. Getting started with historical reenactments seems difficult, but may be worthwhile if you love a specific period in history.
Feel like your imagination is already too far gone for the play activities listed above? Fear not! There are so many exercises you can do to engage your creative side and activate your imagination. Here are some imagination exercises that don’t require a lot of time. Best of all, they’re fun!
- Open up a magazine or Pinterest and find a picture that intrigues you. Ideally, there will be people in the photo you choose…but go ahead and get creative if you like. Invent your own backstory for the image. What lead up to it? And what’s going to happen next? You can write it out, paint it out, or sing it out. Whatever your art is, do that.
- Inc. magazine suggested a role-playing exercise that you can do alone or in a group. First, pick a character–you can be anyone from Bill Gates to Batman. Then, brainstorm ideas as if you were that character. What are you going to do today? What would you ask the President? What’s on your grocery list? Pick a fun topic or two and go nuts.
- Open your dictionary and find a word you don’t know. Make up your own definition for it. Bonus points if your definition is hilarious. If you don’t own a dictionary, you can find a word in Dictionary.com’s Word of the Day archive.
- Pick a classified ad from the newspaper and write (or paint, or sing) the story behind it. Who is this person and why did they place the ad? This is one of my favorite exercises.
Try doing a mixture of these quick exercises and the play activities above and see what happens. I bet you’ll feel more creative and inspired within a couple weeks.