Imagining: The Creative Soul


I step through the door into the world of imagining and find myself in a corridor of the most creative doors I have ever seen.
I wander along with a smile on my face, taking it all in.

At the end is an open door, I step through and find paths leading off in all directions into a delightfully whimsical landscape.

Which path to take?
I spin in a circle and choose the one that faces me when I stop.

Warm air caresses my skin.
The gentle breeze bears the perfume of sweet jasmine, and colourful birds sing vibrant melodies from the treetops.
The world of imagining seems benign, but it could turn dark in a flash.
Imagination is like that.
I know it intimately.

The path leads me to an area of elegant and fantastical houses that defy gravity.
A visual treat.

I’m unsure whether I should choose a house and go Inside.
I don’t see anybody, nor somebody either.
Only nobody populates this world of my psyche.

Inspired by my surroundings, ideas sprout in my mind and images sprout like trees.
Literally.
They appear before me, like magic.

Ah, there it is, my imagination.
Imagine that!
Off on a tangent.


Words echo across time, reaching out from my childhood.
“It’s those hare-brained ideas of yours again.”

I thought that meant I was stupid.
But actually, when frightened, hares just take off at top speed
without a thought as to their direction,
so they tend to run into fences.
Yeah, sounds a bit like me.
Figurately speaking.

Top speed ahead.
I guess it’s that neurodivergent brain of mine.


A curse or a blessing?
Or both or neither.
Yes.
Creative.
Multipassionate,
Difficult to be in a world designed for linear thinking.

Ideas sprout in the way trees branch,
only fast, driven by the magic of inspiration.
Going out in all directions,
synapses firing,
jumping from limb to limb across space.

But I’ve been trained to stop and think,
to rein in the impulse to follow every idea.
They may be nonsense to you, perhaps, but not to me.


What do you do with a brain bursting with creativity?
You create as a matter of necessity.
You can’t not create.
By ‘you’, I mean ‘me’.

Inspiration is a hard task master.
I cannot deny her, at least not without a struggle.

‘Ah, I never give you more than you can handle!’ she says.

Oh yeah!
Really?
You’re going with that, when I’ve been at your mercy my whole life,
helpless to ignore inspiration that can strike at any time
and hold me in its grip for hours, days, months, even years

Creativity just shrugs.
It is what it is.

I’ve learned to live with it.
But sometimes it is too much to handle,
when it’s too much for those around me.
When they can’t see what I see,
can’t follow my thinking.

Why try to explain when it mostly fails?
Simplifying is hard when everything is connected
and all is relevant to understanding.

How can you understand fully without knowing the details?
Easier and quicker to call it hare-brained and dismiss it.
I get it. I do.


Life is safe in my imagination, under my control,
where I’m like a conductor directing an orchestra.
No rejection or misunderstanding of me there.
But no one except I can see it.
Unless I share some expression of it.
And the urge to do so is always there, comes with the territory.

But artistic endeavours stop when ideas come faster than my ability to create them.
Interest wanes before that painting is finished
because other versions of the same idea take my inspiration,
and the product never does the imagination justice.
At least not until AI!

A fertile imagination is like a tree.

When inspiration strikes
I see myriad possibilities.
Visual imagery swirls through my mind,
or words,
elegant phrases of description
or a story to be told.
Or not.
Why bother expressing them?
No one cares.


All thoughts cease.
Nothing.
Not a single thought,
just the world around
as it is.
A relief
to simply be,

Imagination grows from one seemingly brilliant idea to the next,
arising out of the fertile ground of stillness,
rich with the power to transform.
Neurons fire,
bubbling gently like a billy over a campfire,
steam rising and forming new buds to bloom and grow
like a flowering tree.

My brain blossoms flowers of imagery,
then stills,
resting
before another burst of growth.
An endless flow of energy,
from quiet depths.

Like a magician.
A dreamer is.
We can dream it true.
Visualise it in detail,
feel its reality,
and it may come to be.

Did that dream of a gypsy in a travelling circus,
created in a child’s imagination,
bring about my adult performing life?
Consistent, laser-like focus the magicians wand.

But all that excitement!
Uncontrollable.
Exhausting.
Apparently.
To others.
But wonderful for me.
Energising.
Given purpose.
Inspiration so brilliant it shines in my mind like a thousand suns,
or maybe just one.

Told to calm down, I had to bag it up.
Contain it.

Or the foot would come down.
And that’s the end of that.

Imagination squashed under the weight of social expectations.
Rules for behaviour.
Who made them?
Not me or people like me.
If any exist.
As a child I never found any.
Tolerated
not embraced
that was me.

Did I, in an effort to exhibit appropriate behaviour,
develop my own boot to contain the excitement?
If so, it became unrecognisable over time,
just part of me.


Is that discernment or containment?
Both perhaps?
Better contained than let loose and rejected.
Or so I felt when developing defence mechanisms to save my sensitive soul from hurt.
I see this now.

I boxed up those creative ideas,
and the inspiration and excitement that went with them.
But the energy bubbled beneath the surface,
bottled creativity,
just waiting for release.
How I longed to be free,
to let my creativity find its way.


But creativity had to be moderated.
Or I was considered naughty.
Mustn’t be naughty.
Sit still.
Be quiet.

When tucked away out of sight,
alone
with space around,
imagination is free to roam.
Directed by my child self, she took me on journeys
more exciting and colourful than reality.


Secret places
in my imagination.
Fired by stories.
Fiction.
Read in books.
I lived in those worlds.
Surrounded by unrecognised, unopened gifts.


Cheered on by creativity
that always has to find a way
to express
whatever inspires.

Are my inspirations brilliant
or just a bother to be managed?
Both I think.
But still I must create
and share.

Once free to choose a life direction,
wanting creativity
and physical health,
I chose to dance.

It wasn’t easy.
My brain seemed divorced from my body,
unresponsive to my commands,
and that incensed me enough to persevere.
I should be able to tell my body what to do!
So I learned.


I followed my passion,
for expressing myself through movement,
combined it with my creativity,
and made a modest living dancing.
Nightclubs,
theatres,
school shows,
festivals.

For a while.
Twenty years.
Blended with masks and miming.

And clowning.
Travelling constantly
town to town,
show to show,
hard work.
Creativity, well satisfied but still demanding, pushed me along.

Heady days of creative indulgence
but always within limitations.
Budget – a shoe string.
Partner – set on his ideas.
Skills – minimal.
We survived on our creativity.
Surprising.
Entertaining.
Fun.
And a little thought provoking.

Performing days finish,
my clown never seen again,
except in private where I let her out occasionally.

Back to teaching – my first job left long ago.
This time high school creative subjects.
Dance, art, drama.
Tried to inspire kids with my love of the arts
and of being creative.

‘You’re not like the other teachers,’ the kids said.

They didn’t know how right they were.


Even during the busy days and responsibilities of teaching,
creativity demands my spare time.
Decorative masks inspire,
so I make them.
Though the results rarely match what my imagination provides.

And few enjoy masks enough to want a face staring at them from a wall.
Or so I discovered.

Inspiration turns to hats.
Limited though to what might sell.
Nothing too extravagant.
Creations limited by the available market.
And my inner foot.
Being too wild is likely doomed to failure.
Failure to be appreciated.

But not limited in my imagination
where lush gardens grow.

Imagine a world where people wear artistry on hats.
I can.
I’d love to live there.


The natural world brings inspiration,
and hats for nature lovers,
made more practical than those in my imagination,
of course.
Adapted to the world around me.


The wildest creations remained in my imagination,
along with the clothing to match.
That is until an AI art generator allowed me to show you.


Creativity continued its relentless march through my life, inspiring a novel idea.
A book, a story, a fantasy.
Lethal Inheritance.
A journey to the top of a metaphysical mountain.
Diamond Peak.
Me, the hero, Ariel,
immersed in an imaginary world of action,
adventure,
slow-burn romance,
a little humour,
and an evil overlord and his minions to defeat.


Nine more books followed.
Fantasy,
magical realism,
metaphysical fiction,
mystery,
a little romance.
A mix of genres all together,
creative,
but perhaps too different,
too metaphysical
for many.
Go figure.

Story of my life.
And creativity doesn’t enjoy marketing.

But after joyfully immersing myself in an imaginative world for five years and four books,
while studying writing, editing and the publishing business with equal passion and focus,
I became an editor and publisher.
Sorted out the livelihood.
I truly love helping others achieve their dreams.
Satisfies my urge to be of benefit to others.


The perfect job for this time of my life.
It only took a life time to find it,
and the tools and circumstances to enable it.
Not an option when I left high school!
I’ve carved out a niche
publishing books good enough for me to read.
And I only read excellent books.


My vibrant imagination means I can enter the author’s world fully,
connect with their voice,
take on their writing style,
and make it the best it can be
while still theirs,
their book.
That’s a rare talent.
A gift.
And likely related to my neurodivergence
for we are very good at taking on the affectations of others.

And then creativity found social media.

‘A great way to create and share.
Good for business too.’

Of course,
But there’s some blockage somewhere.
Down here in the psyche.
I’m not …
What if …
Not sure …
Scared of rejection?
Surely not.

It’s the battle I have when I start a new project.
Is it brilliant or stupid?
Funny or dumb?
Do I look like a fool?
I honestly don’t know.
Find it hard to read people.
Studied faces for years to try to work it out.

But despite my hobbies, the weight of unexpressed creativity presses down on me.


Creativity simmers,
boxed up,
undervalued and suppressed.
What value is it if it doesn’t bring in an income?
That’s my parents talking,
not me.
I followed my heart,
and the income came,
not much,
but always enough.
But still there’s some truth to it in a world that demands money to survive.

Regardless of that,
creativity is still partially locked away.
I feel it struggling to get out.
But I don’t know how to open the door.
Or if I should.


‘No one keeps it boxed up except yourself.’

Persephone?

She emerges from the darkness into which I have fallen.

Some discernment needs to be used, I tell her.
I can’t follow every creative impulse.

‘Indeed,’ she replies.
‘But make a distinction between conscious discernment and unconscious containment.’

I nod my agreement.
One is healthy, the other limiting.
One stops the ideas arising,
the other examines them once arisen.

‘How would life be if you freed your creativity,’ she asks.

I chuckle.
For once in my life, I can’t imagine.


But I welcome it.

‘What prevents that from happening?’ Persephone asks.

One word comes to mind.
Fear.
Fear that it won’t be good enough,
that no one will appreciate
or understand it
or see the sparkle.
Story of my creative life.
And it might be a mediocre product.
A waste of time.

And yet I long for it to be free,
free to find its own brilliance
and take me where it leads,
with all its cast of characters.


Why is creativity so important to me anyway?
Why can’t I live an ordinary life?

‘Because you are not ordinary,’ Persephone says.
‘Your imagination is a gift,
and so are …’
She lists what she sees in me, and I cannot deny the truth of it.
I just never thought any of it was extraordinary.
Gifted?
Really?

I laugh.
These so-called gifts come with a lot of baggage:
all those things that make me hard to be around.
Apparently.
Laughing at things others don’t find funny.
Overbearing enthisiasm.
Excitability.
Careening off into wild ideas.
Too loud.
Too passionate.
Thinking too fast and too far ahead.
Too much.
Always too much.

‘By containing them, you may be squashing your gifts,’ Persephone says.

Hmm. That’s an interesting thought.

I understand.
They go together,
so if one is a problem
then both are.
For social survival, both have to be contained.
But not when alone.
How I love to be alone,
indulging in something creative.

Persephone clears her throat, bringing me back from my revere, then says,
‘By having your creativity devalued as a child, you may devalue it yourself.’

I take a moment to consider that.
I have seen it as a bit of a bother,
something to be managed,
fun but also problematic.
That attitude seems ridiculous now,
not worthy of the adult I have become.
What am I afraid of?

‘You could reframe those qualities in a more positive way,’ Persephone continues.
‘See intensity as passion, perhaps, and overexcitability as enthusiasm.

The light of awareness shines again in my mind,
illuminating the truth in a brilliant beam of understanding.

What I thought were faults
are gifts in disguise.
That they were not recognised or valued makes them no less valuable,
just unseen.
Unappreciated.
I suddenly see them in a new way,
see how everything fits together,
all those qualities of my neurodivergent brain.
It’s a freeing realisation.

‘But I’m no great artist,’ I protest.

Persephone smiles.
‘Your life is your great creation.
Your brilliance shines through every choice.’


I wince.
Brilliance?
Really.
I don’t see it.

‘Sparkle then,’ she says.

I scoff at that.
A lot of the sparkle is locked away.
Mustn’t shine too bright.
Only trouble comes from that.

And I’m still no great artist.
I have no illusions about my skills.

‘Accept your gifts as gifts,’ she says. ‘And the dynamics will shift.’

I mull the idea over for a bit and let it settle into my consciousness.
It’s a liberating idea,
one that slowly works it magic
until
in a sudden bolt of inspiration
my passion for using my imagination,
investigating my mind,
and writing metaphysical stories come together
in one deeply meaningful project.
Pyschemagination!


Why didn’t I think of this before?
Because all the elements required for its birth only just fell into place.
The AI art generator makes images as fast as I can dream them up
and truer to the vibrancy of my imagination than anything I could paint myself.
Have I found my medium,
or will this turn out to be just another creative endeavour in which few are interested
and even fewer understand or appreciate?
Only time will tell.
But creativity so strong cannot be denied.
It must be done
if only for myself.

The process of creation moves something deep in my psyche.
Why is imagination so powerful?

What if it isn’t just making things up?

What if it’s a way of connecting with an unseen world,
of tuning in to the realm between the physical and the non-physical
where existence hasn’t decided if it’s a particle or a wave,
where reality is fluid,
and the veil between existence and non-existence,
fantasy and reality,
is thin?

‘Yes.’


I resit the impulse to spin around
looking for the owners of the chorus of deep voices.
Though I don’t see them,
I know they are there.

The forest around me fills my being with the words,
‘Imagination is your friend.’

That gives me pause.
Such that, for a moment, no thoughts pass through my mind.

‘It is a channel for communication,
and a way to call forth your world.’

From the sambhogakaya.
The idea is not new to me.
It aligns with Vajrayana Buddhist thought,
and my many years of experience of the practice
where imagination is just such a tool.
A tool for connecting with the sambhogakaya,
that layer of reality between the non-physical dharmakaya realm,
quantum reality,
and the physical nirmanakaya realm of this world.
The realm of imagination and creativity,
of light and sound,
from which springs the physical world.


So they say.

Despite the idea aligning with my meditative experience,
some part of me resists.

The intellect.

After all, aren’t noble beings and nature spirits just figments of my imagination?
Yes, of course.

And yet their voices resonate in my being.

‘Are you one with all things?’ they ask as one.

Yes. I feel that deeply,
know it in my bones.

‘What do you feel when you walk in the forest? Nothing? No presence?’

No, I do feel something.
I feel energy, and yes, presence.

‘Many or one?’

Both.
The many are one,
and the one is many.

I sense the world smiling.
‘Are the nature spirits just figments of your imagination, then?’

I roll my eyes,
but resist the temptation to scoff.

Who are these voices?
Am I going mad?
Has imagination finally run away with me,
my fear realised?

But when I take a deep breath and exhale my thoughts,
In the space that remains, I know I am sane,
my mind clear, open, aware,
at one with everything.
The power of that state thrums through my being,
and terrifies me.
What would happen if I let that sense of power out of the box?
Safer to keep it locked away,
only taken out when in meditation.

‘Embrace the power of your imagination
and help create the world you envisage this could be,’ a voice from the forest whispers.

Something spiky pierces my heart.
I shake my head.
That is far too much responsibility.
If I claimed such power, I would have to do something with it.

The tree spirits depart with a sigh,
and the doors appear once more.
I’m relieved.
Right now, the intensity of my mind is too much even for me.


The futuristic door, labelled Thinking, is next in line.
Yes, it’s time to get my thoughts in order.
I stride towards the beckoning door, ready to move on.

Wait.
I stop and call into the endless twilight that has gathered around me,
‘What do you want this time?’

‘The precious stones of knowledge,’ the gatekeep says as he appears before me.
‘In order to learn anew, you must give up what you think you know already.’

Once again, the required payment comes easily off the necklace of wisdom that sits around my neck.


The apparition dissolves into dust the moment the gemstones touch his hand,
and the futuristic doors slide open with a whoosh.