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Harnessing Imagination to Cultivate Creativity

It’s a short one today, but it’s quite an adventure.

The entire ideal of Creating Confidently is to say that imagination, the classic “creative” concepts are not the only way to be creative in the world today; to break the stereotyping of creativity and make it accessible to those who have been told all their lives that they’re not creative, potentially because they are not uber imaginative. However, if you are super imaginative - a day dreamer, a mad scientist, a wacky inventor - that doesn’t automatically mean you are purposefully creative.

Take kindergarteners for example. They come up with brand new jokes, fantastically wild monsters and insane inventions that are totally practical if you live in outer space and really need that taco spitting dino to shoot them to you on mars, but those ideas are purely imagination fabrications and not a carefully planted seed of an idea that can be cultivated, encouraged and realized in a creative work.

Simply having the imagination to come up with fantastical and wild ideas, concepts that are completely out of this world or wholly spectacular in their spectacle is not going to make for a piece of creativity produced for the purpose of sharing, business or growth. However, imagination has its place at the table, and creativity’s very roots are embedded in imagination.

Let’s talk differences. First imagination has to be sparked. No ideas come from truly practical places, one has to first imagine something to manifest it in the world, whether that be a piece of art, a story, a solution to a practical problem or what to make for dinner out of what you have in the fridge - all of these require you to imagine something that isn’t already present in your reality. However, imagination has no limitations, it is boundless, endless, and often does not need to exist within the constraints of reality - kind of the whole point of it really. Imagination has the power and the ability to be nonsensical.

Creativity on the other hand is the manifestation of our imaginations in our physical reality. The reason we engage with creativity in our lives is to create meaning, invent purpose, express wonder and access beauty. Creativity is a cultivated seed of an idea, nurtured and fed until it bears fruit. Creativity takes time, effort and focus, where imagination takes impulse, instinct and freedom. Simply nailing pieces of wood together is not creative, building a chair with reliefs and carvings, putting pieces together in a meaningful way with purpose and construction is creativity at work.

The imaginative concept can percolate, solidify with purpose and then with focus and effort can become the epicentre of creative energy. If we are able to filter out our best ideas from the wild imaginings of freedom, we can harness those kernels of truth for a creative project. Writers are a great example of this principle; often imagining a story they want to read, and then working and rewriting and editing it until it makes sense, has meaning and is polished enough to then share.

Imagination and creativity are the difference between the first draft and the published novel, the sketch and the masterpiece, contents of the fridge and family dinner. Each begin with wild possibility and end in purposeful expression. Allowing our imaginations to run wild is necessary, it needs the exercise, but we also need to know how to reign it in, to cultivate it, and train it to be purposeful. We need to come up with all of the wild ideas first before we can find the truth of them, the idea that really could be before we can turn our creativity loose and make it a reality.

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