Imagination: The Writer’s Call
There is a mystery about sitting down to write, an alternate awareness, of a world where imagination and memory, and a mysterious knowing merge, indistinguishable. A palette of our experience, and perhaps, if Carl Jung is right, the experience of everyone who’s ever lived. How did I know, for instance, when I wrote my story, “The Call of the Dove” (Cricket Magazine, volume 21, number 9, May 1994) how it felt to be a young disciple in a Tibetan monastery on a shelf of land in the Himalayas?
The imagination is a mystery, a time traveler, a vehicle that takes me places that are completely surprising. This is the pay-off of sitting down to write, of finding time, even five minutes, which may lead to five more, to an hour, to a year or a five-year commitment to tell a story that has somehow slipped into life. As if my letters and words now breathe. That writing place seems always there, waiting. Even when months have passed since I’ve last opened up its door.
And when the thing that has come to life feels too compelling to be kept to myself it presses to go out, to an editor, or printed and hand distributed, or read out loud to a friend, or a group of people I’ve never met, there’s no telling where this new life will want to go.
The life of an artist, a writer, is so rich. Without having to physically go anywhere dimensions so extraordinary open, piercing the veneer of ordinary life, the world we take for granted. But it’s we who have grown ordinary, dulled, unlike the child we once were, who saw everything with wide-open eyes, with wonder.
Setting something down on paper, and the process of revision that follows, opens the wonder of life again. It is as if writing is a road to the thing that underlies life—Significance. A writer seems to become, by the act of writing, one with life’s living stream. In that heightened state where the soup of thoughts, dreams, images, mix, a place teeming with impressions, we somehow can make order. In this marvelous thing, the creative process, something important happens: meaning opens, meaning that can be transmitted to others, hungry for significance too.
Is there really such thing as ordinary life? I don’t think so. But it takes me, you, to see how extraordinary life is. And for that I have to come to life myself. A pen, a pad and five minutes. It can begin that way.
Helena Clare Pittman is the bestselling author of A Grain of Rice, in print for over 25 years. She’s the author/illustrator of 16 other books, including a prestigious “Smithsonian Book” edition and a recommendation by The New York Times‘ Best Paperbacks. Helena teaches widely at numerous institutions and is an Associate of the Center for Creative Writing.