I have an extremely vivid imagination. I don’t know if that’s why I’m a writer, or if I’m a writer because of it. Or maybe I just happen to be a writer who also has a vivid imagination. By ‘imagination’ I don’t necessarily mean that I’m adept at making things up or creating things, though I hope I’m also good at those things as well, otherwise I’m not much of a writer. In this case when I speak of imagination, I mean the ability to visualize.
I’ve always been able to clearly picture things, even without my eyes closed. It’s hard to describe, but it’s like a movie playing in my head. I’m not seeing it with my eyes of course, but I am ‘seeing’ it. I suppose some people call this daydreaming. For me it’s quite intense though, down to the fact I can see details and backgrounds. Even if someone is telling me a story about something that happened to them, my mind instantly starts constructing the entire scene, filling in the blanks with things like what color the walls are or whether it was daytime or nighttime outside the window. It can be a lot of fun, and it’s not particularly distracting, because it’s just how my mind works.
Of course, this is helpful when it comes to writing. I can ‘watch’ the story in my head as I write it, and heck, sometimes I feel like I’m munching on popcorn, eager to find out what happens next (even I don’t know). I can’t say if writing honed this ability or it was the other way around, but I’m glad I have it. I remember being surprised to learn not everyone thinks visually like this. Honestly, for a good portion of my life I just thought it was how human brains worked.
However, there are pros and cons to having this sort of vivid imagination.
- Telling stories is easier when I can ‘see’ them. It helps me convey details and figure out what I need to describe to the reader. I can also visualize the things I never tell the reader because they wouldn’t fit in the story. That somehow makes the story more whole for me.
- Making up the physical appearance of characters is easy, but I also spend a lot of time adjusting them in my head to get them just right.
- For some reason this makes my memory very sharp as well, because when I’m recalling something I bring the ‘picture’ of it up in my head and I can see the details.
- I’m nowhere near as good with words as I am with visions. That means I can see the most perfect things in my head but I sure as heck can’t describe them exactly the way I see them, sometimes not fully, and sometimes not efficiently at all. It’s the image-to-word equivalent of telling someone about a beautiful person you saw at the grocery store the other day and then drawing a stick figure to illustrate.
- Things have to make sense. Part of storytelling, whether it’s written or visual, is that the reader/viewer is willing to suspend some disbelief. That’s why it’s storytelling and not reality. However, being able to see things in my head, if something isn’t right–the dimensions of a room don’t work, someone is positioned in a way a human body couldn’t manage, two things don’t fit together–I find myself rewriting everything to fix it because it bothers me.
- The absolute worst con is that I have a vivid imagination for ALL things. So if someone talks about or I read about something gross or disturbing, the detailed image of it INSTANTLY pops into my head and it’s incredibly jarring. I’ve actually had people in my life tease me with this and it’s annoying. I guess if I have the good parts of this ability I have to accept the bad parts of it too, though.
I know a lot of writers have vivid imaginations, so maybe it comes with the territory. Can you visualize things easily? Does it come with drawbacks? I feel there’s probably a lot of other types of artists who have this skill as well. Tell me about your imagination!