I’ve been thinking about imagination, about the creative process. I can’t speak for anyone else, but my inner dream life has changed a bit over the years.
When I was a child, as the Good Book says, I spoke and I thought as a child. My daydreams and flights of fancy were very direct. When I was small, I was the hero of my stories. In my mind, I rode off on quests, sailed among the stars, rescued the obligatory kids from the burning building (notice how its never adults in the burning building?), and fought the villains personally.
Now, more often than not, I’m not the hero – I’m the narrator. I think about how I would tell, write, or otherwise present the tale even as it is unfolding in my imagination. How would I present this in dialogue for a play? What narrative voice would I use for a novel? And for my fellow nerds out there, how would I run this as a game?
It’s true – the story is still interesting, even if I envision it in page layouts.
Some interesting things happened in the transition as I moved from hero to storyteller. Character diversity for one thing. Not being the lead allows for characters who don’t have to be me. Multiple characters, characters with different points of view, characters that don’t have to agree with one another.
And structure: while I am not likely to daydream a full and complete novel, I can extend beyond a single scene, knowing the moment currently in my head is the set up or foreshadowing of a pay off that would occur in a later scene.
And failure: since the hero is no longer an avatar of me personally, it is a little easier to give him (or her, now) failings and incomplete resolutions and less immediate goals.
I don’t know if this is a unique pathology, or if all creative artists take a similar journey, or even if everyone, simply because of our familiarity with stories, follows this sort of path as they grow. Perhaps, as we grow, we incorporate the lessons we learn into our stories – new ideas like the growing awareness of others as thinking and feeling people in their own right or the knowledge that life isn’t all successes and happy endings.
Or maybe it’s just me.